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June 26, 2019

Rocco Mediate

Notre Dame, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome in Rocco Mediate to the media center here at the 40th U.S. Senior Open. Rocco, playing in your seventh U.S. Senior Open. After last year's Senior PGA, you and Lee Janzen came down here and played the course and said you loved it. And now you're seeing it under championship conditions. What do you think?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, it had to be an easy -- because it's perfect. It almost set itself up. Some nice rough. It's spotty, but right off the edge of the fairway, it's nasty like it's supposed to be. If you miss a little further it's a little wispy, but it's just a good golf course.

We knew it would be when we saw it last year. Lee and I came down on Wednesday before the PGA up at Benton Harbor and loved it. It looks "Openy." I was telling Sean Knapp, I said, it just looks "Openy" out here. It looks cool, with the bunkers with the little grass. It's good. It's good.

THE MODERATOR: Player registration over at the Notre Dame football stadium must have been pretty cool.

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. I didn't go down there. I'm going to do it today. My girls are coming in today. I'm picking them up after I'm done. We'll sneak over there today sometime.

It's so cool. It's never happened, I don't think, on a university golf course, especially Notre Dame. So yeah, it's pretty cool.

THE MODERATOR: Speaking of your girls, you missed the Japan event and you were reading in preschool. That must have been nice --

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I started reading like this, and the teacher goes, Yeah, you might want to let them see what you're reading. I went, Oh, good call. Yeah, I was just kind of having fun myself. But it was fun.

Francesca -- I have three older boys and her, a four-year-old. I've never stopped raising children since I was 20, or whatever, and it's been so much fun. Like I said, they're coming today. Loves golf. Goes and hits balls with me at Hazeltine. It's priceless. Yeah, it was fun.

THE MODERATOR: And your game, two top 10s, eight top 25s this year. How do you feel coming into this week?

ROCCO MEDIATE: It's come around nicely. A lot of changes body-wise and other things wise, and everything is good. I've been terrible attitude putting lately, but now I'm fixed. I'm fixed. I talked to Dr. Rotella last night for a minute. I go, Doc, my attitude is crap. I'm blaming it on everything else but myself. I already know I'm doing this. He goes, Well, just go out there and enjoy yourself. I said, That's what I'm going to do. I'm fine. I've got the putter I want. I'm good. But we're all crazy. All of us. We're completely certifiable.

But looking forward to it. Love these -- this is my favorite event. Anything with the USGA in it, I love it. It tests you nicely, and this golf course will do exactly that. As the week goes, it'll get probably firmer. Hopefully it won't rain anymore, but it's still good.

Q. You've had pretty good success in this area through the years.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, yeah.

Q. Do you remember coming here and qualifying at Hampshire Country Club the year before you played in the final?

Q. And then of course winning at Harbor Shores and playing the practice round. Talk about --
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, the Western Am back then, the qualifying, the courses -- I grew up at Greensburg Country Club, obviously, in Greensburg, PA, we had our invitational that year, and I had played in a couple, and it was great because it's a two-man team thing, and it's really good. It was a lot of good players coming there. And it was the same week as the Western, and my dad said to me, he goes, Well, do you want to become better? Because I never thought about professional then, I just loved to play.

He goes, Well, if you want to get better, you might want to go up there and play instead of playing here with your course. Obviously the Western is the best amateurs in the world. I certainly wasn't one of them.

But it showed me a little something the first year I qualified, didn't make it to match play, but I still qualified. I was in shock myself. I think I shot 73 or 74 to qualify at Hampshire.

And then that gave me a little bit of confidence. Even though I didn't get to match play, I played four decent rounds. And then the next year I -- did I have to qualify next year, or was I in? I don't remember.

Q. You might have been in.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think I was in. And then I made it to match -- the final, actually, and John Inman beat me. We had a great match. It was a great week. And I felt better about what I was trying to do. Not that I thought I was ever going to be a professional, but at least I knew I could play some amateur golf, and then I played good at the -- actually beat Segal the next month later at the U.S. Amateur the next round, and then I lost -- actually Peter Persons beat me -- funny you remember those things -- at Oak Tree. And I think, and Scottie and I, Verplank, had been talking, I beat Scottie at the Western in -- I think it was the semifinal. Beat him in the 19th hole. Of course he didn't know who the hell I was.

I'm taking credit for his unbelievable run after that. He won the U.S. Amateur. Because he was so mad that some guy named Rocco beat him he just went out and killed everybody. It was unbelievable. We were talking about that a few weeks ago.

But that was a huge thing for me in this area. Then obviously Harbor Shores was insane. Who knew that.

Q. When you qualified at Hampshire, I remember your father in the Cadillac --

Q. -- gave you the thing, (indiscernible).
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, it was great. Point O'Woods was great -- I went out there a few years ago to look at it. I think I was hurt. In fact, I was hurt. I didn't play Harbor Shores. I played like four holes; couldn't play anymore. But I went off to Point O'Woods. They took a lot of trees out. But it's still -- that was a great event. What, 72 holes strokes, 72 holes match.

Q. And it's come back this year.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Good, good.

Q. You had mentioned briefly at the start a little bit about the course and that you had played it. Can you talk a little bit about the Coore & Crenshaw design and how that might compare to other Coore & Crenshaw courses you've played?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, I haven't played all of their stuff. I've played several. He doesn't do a lot of disturbance of the ground. He just kind of uses what he has. That's why it's so genius. That's how they used to do it back 100 years ago. Which, if you think about it, those are still our best courses. So he makes it look like it's been here forever. What is it, 20 years old, give or take? And it was one of his first ones. Or was it his first one? It was one of them.

But anytime you're going to play one of their courses, like we played one at the Bass Pro Shops, and it was fantastic. I mean, we played in 35 mile-an-hour winds, and it really wasn't -- he allows for the things that you're supposed to allow for. Kapalua, another example, in Hawai'i, in Maui.

But this one is stunning. I loved it when I saw it. It's just right in front of you. You just know what's going to happen. And then you've got the rough -- obviously last year, and then plus the whole routing changed. I'm like, What happened to 1? Oh, it's over -- yeah, I forgot they were going to do that. And I think they took the old 10, which is now, what, 4, and it's a par-4. We knew that was going to happen. That's a nasty hole.

But it's supposed to be hard. It's supposed to be hard. I think a lot of that's gotten bent out of shape. It's supposed to -- you're supposed to be penalized for missing things. And the reason the fairways are like they are is because it's easier to play from. It's real simple.

Like they said, what does it take to win one of these? Well, I don't know, but I know what it takes to almost win a few of them, and it's fairways and greens, period.

You know, you have to putt well, but you have to hit -- most of the time a lot under par doesn't win. I don't know what the scores will be here, but most of the time around par wins. Fairways and greens.

Q. To build on your comments, is there a portion of the golf course that is going to be dangerous come the weekend where you have to be careful in a certain stretch of the golf course?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, careful is not a word we like to use because careful is bad. You've just got to let it fly. On those holes you really have to -- I wouldn't say it's different than any other ones. There's really no -- if you miss a shot, any hole is going to get you, whether it's 400 yards or -- I don't know what No. 4 is.

But if you let go, you'll be -- it doesn't really matter. Like 18 is a great finishing hole. If you miss your shot a little bit -- and either shot, you've got issues.

And it's visually good. It's visually intimidating, and it's supposed to be that way. You see all the stuff, sometimes your eyes go to the stuff that you don't want it to go to, like what am I looking over there for, there's 25, 30 yards of fairway over there. But there's really nowhere to be careful.

I think those times you have to be almost more -- I don't know if aggressive is the word, but more sure of what you're trying to do.

Q. And finally, just with all the opportunities you've had in these Opens and U.S. Senior Opens, what part of your game has allowed you to have those opportunities?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Driving straight and reasonable irons. But driving straight sets up the day. If you drive straight, you can do something. Even if you miss the second shot from the fairway, you can still -- you're going to be around where you can play from if you know what you're doing. But if you don't drive straight, the game is over. You just can't -- and these fairways are big, but they're missable. There's angles and there's runouts and stuff, and, like I said, it's a little soft right now because it rained eight feet on Monday or whatever. We were at CVS, and it's like the place is closed down. Was it Monday or Sunday? One of the days.

But it's still moving. The ball is not plugging or anything. It's not that wet. But it'll keep drying up and get like we like it.

Q. I want to take you back to 2008. Obviously you took some guy to the limit --
ROCCO MEDIATE: What happened?

Q. I was going to ask you because I can't remember.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think I lost. Pretty sure I lost.

Q. That's all right.
ROCCO MEDIATE: That was the most fun ever.

Q. Was it?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, just -- the only thing I didn't do is get the trophy. It was the most fun playing golf you could ever have in front of the world, and you can't hide, and you're playing him.

Q. Yeah.
ROCCO MEDIATE: That's the most fun in the world.

Q. Pretty big spotlight, you handled it great.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, shoot. So much fun. Yeah, it was -- you look back and go, How in the hell did he beat me? You go, How do he do it? And the great players, they do it. Whenever you look back through history, and I say a great player is this, he does things we can't do on the golf course every day.

They asked me in the FOX interview I did before last year's Open. Tom Rinaldi said, Are you a great player? I said, No, I'm not. I said, There's only a handful. Go back in history, 20, 25 guys. What is a great player? Multiple major championships, zillions of other events they win. And they do it all the time. And they do it throughout their career. That's a great player. I'm simply a player.

What if you'd have won that Open? No, it's only one of them. It doesn't make me a great player. I just played great that week. Great players keep doing it for their entire career. To me that's what it is, Watson, Nicklaus. You go back through history, Tom Morris, Jones, Hagen, Sarazen, Hogan, Snead. They all did it continually.

Q. There was a long stretch 11 years until he won the Masters this year. Were you surprised that he won the Masters?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, I was surprised it took so long. Totally surprised it took so long.

Q. Where were you? Were you watching?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I came and -- I was in Naples and I came in on like the 11th hole because I wanted to see the finish because once he had that lead, I'm like, well, I think this game is over. And if you think about what he did coming in, he didn't miss the middle of the club face until the 18th second shot. He really didn't, he just hit the flare because he had a two-shot lead. If he had a one-shot lead, I guarantee that ball is on the green.

That doesn't surprise me in the least what he does. Nothing. What was glad -- what I was happy to see was over the years, if he would have came back with the same golf swing he had before the injuries, you still would never heard of him again. He would have never won because the body won't hold. But I saw him two years ago, I was watching his tournament in the Bahamas, and I watched one swing, and I went, oh, somebody figured it out. The club is not behind him, he's not up and down now as much. All of a sudden, now the back will hold, and if the club -- the golf swing gets funny, back is going to go.

You look at some of these kids getting hurt, why do you think that is? It's hard what they do. The club is moving way faster than we moved it. But they have to do funny things to make it happen. The body does -- the spine hates all of that, hates it, and it will break.

But he came back, and you see he has little -- we all have little twinges now, but he's fine. He looks great. I mean, his golf swing looks great.

I don't know if he's ever swung better. I mean, I might have won more tournaments, and at 43 he doesn't look or act or swing 43 at all. So I'm not surprised.

I'll be surprised -- I've said it for a few years, I said, Jack's record is still in jeopardy. What? You're out of your mind; he can't play with these kids. I'm like, What, are you completely -- everybody is -- you're not realizing who we're talking about. This isn't just some guy that won a few tournaments. He's about to win the most ever, and there's a shot at Jack. A shot at it. We'll see. It'll be fun to watch.

Q. When you played here in a practice round with Lee, did you talk to Ben right after that and tell him what you thought of the golf course?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I don't know when we saw him, but Ben is like, oh, thanks, we liked it. He's that guy, aww, shucks. But they take their time on stuff from what I understand, one, maybe two golf courses a year they'll build, maybe. And that's pretty cool because they could probably get 20. But then all of a sudden the quality goes down. You can't be at 20 places or five places, but he can be at two, and that's all he really does now. He plays a little, but they're exceptional at what they do, exceptional.

Q. What do you think of the greens here, this set of greens?
ROCCO MEDIATE: They're good. There's nothing funny going on. There's a couple little ones that have quadrants on -- is 16 the par-5?

Q. Yeah, with the bunkers.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, that's really cool but it's a reachable 5 so it shouldn't be flat and right in front of you. If you hit it to the right and the pin is on the left, best wishes.

Q. Could you see somebody going into that bunker, because when they were building this, he told me that was kind of his little homage to the Road Hole.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, you can -- if you're back there with whatever club we're hitting in, I was hitting 3-wood this morning, you easily can hit in that bunker. But unless it gets right up against it, you can still get it out, but it needs to be that way because it's a reachable 5. If it was 700 yards then that's a different story, but it's not. If you do lay up, you're coming in with a sand wedge.

He's kind of right. But some long clubs will get in there easily. Easily. It'll be interesting to see. I looked at it just real quick and walked away. If I'm in there, I'll deal with it when I'm in there.

Q. It's a little bit like the devil's asshole.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, it's a good one. There's a little bit of room. But hopefully I won't have to see it. Hopefully I won't see anybody in it, either.

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