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March 16, 2007

Rocco Mediate


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Current leader in the clubhouse, Rocco Mediate, thank you for joining us, opening with rounds of 66 and 65 here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Maybe some opening comments about two great days for you.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, it's hot in here. The golf course is good. It's the easy wind I think with 17, 18 down and with 1, 2, 3, 4 down just about. So those holes, you know, you're hitting a 3-wood. I'm hitting a 3-wood and a 9-iron at 18. I mean, that's the first time in my 20-some years here I've ever hit a 3-wood off the tee period on 18 because it's so windy and so down. 17 is just a 4- or 5-iron and the ball stops. I hit a shot yesterday that I couldn't believe how quickly the ball stopped. It was obscene to stop within a foot where it hit. Usually they are rolling 20 feet, which is what you want on that hole. But, you know, I know somebody is not happy about the conditions.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Just two bogeys over the first two days, with the rough and generally the conditions of the course, maybe some comments about that.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Things are coming around. I'm relearning the game now. I've been out of it for a while. I've been hurt for three, almost four years now, again. I'm relearning trust again, because I know it's in there now. If my body feels good, I know I still can compete a little bit with these guys.
They asked me about the announcing, I said, "I'm not done out here yet. I've got plenty more years to go." But I'm relearning everything. Today was a huge day. I decided I'm just going to trust what I've done and see what happens. It happened. I know I can do it, continue to go. Whether it happens or not, I don't know that, but I know I can continue, because physically I'm as good as I've ever been.
But relearning this game at 44 as far as playing is kind of hard. This is Rocky VI, man. (Laughter) This is the sixth try. And I made that decision last December. I said, "Do I want it or don't I want it?" And I chose yes. So had to go through all that stuff again. It's cool, really cool.

Q. I thought I remembered during one of the early broadcasts, Hawaii or wherever you were working right out of the chute that it was killing you watching and not playing and that really lit a fire under you even more to come back and already play. I didn't realize you had already made up your mind.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I did. I made up my mind, because the GOLF CHANNEL said they wanted 16 events and I said, no, I'll do the first three. If I feel really good, I'm going to try to play again.
I really enjoyed those three weeks though. It was cool. Because I know the guys so well that I have an advantage. And a lot of people said I did a nice job, but the only reason I did is because I know them so well. I know what they are going to do before they do it. And I can call shots from a hundred-- I was never near anybody when I called a shot because I knew what was going on and I thought that was an advantage. Jerry Foltz (GOLF CHANNEL) was huge helping me out, because it's hard. I never heard stuff in my ear. Felt like I was going crazy half the time.
It did show me a lot. I mean, first of all, I never really watched a golf tournament from the side since 1980, since I watched Tom Watson win the World Series of Golf in Akron, and it was interesting. It's a different perspective.

Q. I would have thought that for you getting paid to talk would have been a dream job, would you have never come back from.
ROCCO MEDIATE: No kidding. I just don't have an opportunity to win $1 million a week. That's the only difference. And I think I have some of that in me yet.
I tell you what, and working with Kelly and Nick and Mark, we had a blast. Those guys, we had so much fun, and all of the people at the GOLF CHANNEL have been so good. I really enjoyed that time. I really did. I may do some more some time. If I have a week and I'm bored, if they want me; I still like it. I still like it.

Q. Arnold was talking in the telecast yesterday how special it was for him to see you playing well this week. Could you talk about how special it is for you to play well this week?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, Mr. Palmer I go back since I was 19. You know, growing up in western Pennsylvania, we're both kind of very, very tough and very stubborn. He's counseled me a lot on certain issues. I've sat in his office many hours. I've sat with him at Laurel Valley and Latrobe and played a lot of golf with him, probably hundreds of rounds over the years. You know, that's a luxury that most people don't have.
This tournament, I remember I called him, it was hilarious. I called him, came up and saw him in December; I brought a couple of my buddies from Ireland up to meet him and we talked for a while. I called him and I said, "I'm going to write a letter, what do I need to do to get in your tournament. But I've got to tell you something first." And he loved this. I said, "If I ask you for an exemption, will you give it to me?"
He said yes. Well, I didn't ask him.
I said, "I want you to do me a favor." This is before Los Angeles. "I want you to monitor my play for the next couple of weeks." If he says he's going to do it, he's going to do it. "If you watch my play for the next few weeks and you think I deserve to be at your golf tournament, I'll take it. If you don't, no big deal."
He goes, you know him, "Well, all right, I'll watch. I'll see what you're up to." Because all I've got to do is ask him. He's given me plenty over 20 years. So, you know, that's what he would have done. He would have said -- he would have done the same thing.
So I think when he saw me play pretty good at L.A. and starting to see things go up, he said, well, let's give him a shot. And that's very inspiring to me.
Whatever happens the next two days, I'm not real concerned. I'm just trying to put the ball in the fairway tomorrow morning on No. 1. But very special relationship, very lucky for me.

Q. Age 19?

Q. How did that all start and transpire?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, a buddy of mine, Danny Bonar (ph) and Chris Adams, who are very close with Arnold through his whole life always said, "We should play with Arnold." I'm like, yeah, sure you will. That was at Greensburg Country Club where I grew up kind of playing. And I was -- my normal game, I don't know what day, Friday or Saturday, I'm not sure. Might have been a Wednesday. Danny called and said, "Hey, I have a big money game for us at Latrobe, come on over."
I dumped guys I was playing with and said, "I'm leaving." So I left and walked over -- drove over, 15-minute drive, 20 minutes maybe. And I saw him on the first tee and I almost turned around. I was so nervous; I almost turned around and got back in the car left.
I said, you know what, the hell with it. So I went up and the first time I met him, it was like he had known me for a hundred years. He makes you feel that way. Or at least he makes me feel that way. And we've been pals ever since.

Q. Who won?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I dusted him, 69-71. I have the score card. Whether he says it or not, I have proof; 20 bucks, thanks for coming.
It's been cool, it's been really cool.

Q. When you say that you're having to relearn the game, are you talk the about fact that you've got into bad habits because of your injuries?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, God, yes, absolutely yes. It's been -- the whole golf swing itself and the whole basis of it has changed over the last two years. I went and started working with Jimmy Ballard two years ago and he taught me how to use the spine. And I still work with Rick Smith also.
I never was a person who believed that if -- I worked with Rick for 25 years, and I remember telling Rick, "I want to go see Jimmy because I know he knows something that nobody knows about the spine." And I was right. And that story goes -- that's a three-hour, we don't have time for that story.
But, what I learned form Jimmy was how to -- what to do with my back and how to protect it and it changed a lot of things. And Rick was right on board with it, too. That's the kind of guy Rick is. He says, "Listen, if you want to go do it, you go do it." We're best friends before teacher/student thing. Rick and I talk at least once a week, and we just worked the other day. Not much to do, just go do that and we'll talk about it later on.
But Jimmy really, really helped me on what to do with the body and how to use it to my advantage instead of -- because when I got hurt, I went the other way and it was making it worse. What feels good necessarily isn't the right thing. That's what I'm saying about trust. My shot patterns change. I still draw but not as much. I have to change a lot of things. It's taking some time but I don't have anything else to do so I'm going to do this.

Q. Could I ask you a question about Paul Casey?

Q. I would imagine you saw a lot of the best European players during commentating, where would you place him?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No. 1. This guy, he's scary-good. I played with him three or four years ago and he was good but not nearly -- first of all, he's a really, really good guy. We had a blast the last two days. We fed off each other all day. And I was fortunate today that I made more putts than he did; that's the only difference.
He's got the whole package. Hits it far, putts good, pitches good. He does it all. And he's got a tremendous attitude. I really enjoyed it. I was very impressed. Because like I said, I had not seen him in years, I had not played with him in a couple of years. He was No. 1 on the Order of Merit last year. Pretty easy to see why. (Casey finished second on 2006 Order of Merit to Padraig Harrington).

Q. Do you see him as a rival for Tiger?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think he could be? Yeah, it depends what he want to do with it. Does he have the ability, absolutely. But it takes more than ability to go after Tiger. It takes the whole ball of wax, and sometimes it's hard to sacrifice all that but he's young enough.

Q. Potential major winner?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, drives it beautifully. That's what I always look at with these young guys, how do they drive it. Because you can't win majors without driving it. He really drives well.
But we both only missed a couple fairways. But the beauty of him is it's 30 yards past mine, which is nice. Obviously I can still compete but it's a little harder. But yes, he can do that and he has the temperament to do it I think.

Q. Back to your deal with Arnold, the Open, his last Open, say things worked this weekend and you winds up on that dream Sunday afternoon, how would that work?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It would be pretty interesting to see if I could even talk.

Q. You'd find a way.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, I would, you're probably right. No, it's special. It's a little extra added bonus pressure we'll call it. Because I really would -- I would love to do that here hopefully the next two days or some day with him there. It would just be ridiculous. I wouldn't know what to do. But it would be fun to find out what I'd do.

Q. And this is hard: In ten words or less, that Open Friday with you and Arnold?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, my God, it was ridiculous. I remember walking up to the 18th green, I had grabbed my caddie, Kenny, I said, (stand) "Back, let's just watch this." Stopped about 75 yards short. It was unbelievable.
But I took him out there after we were done I said, "Mr. Palmer?"
He goes, "Yeah."
I said, "This is all for you." Well, that was the end of him. So I take credit for the first one.
No, I mean, you really can't -- what he's done for our game, we all know that. There's some other guys that have taken over for what he's done but he's started it. You can't have it unless you start it.

Q. Casey was in here and talked about how much he enjoyed playing with you today and the last few days because of, just the way you are and the talk and stuff. And he sort of lamented the death of banter on TOUR and how the younger guys don't seem to have that back and forth. Have you noticed that?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Absolutely noticed that, yeah. I understand we're playing for lots of money, but so what. It's still a game.
And I, especially at my age with what's happened, if you don't think I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this stuff, you're out of your mind. I mean, I watched some of the telecast last night because I wanted to see what the golf looks like when it counted. I can see on film it looks beautiful, but that doesn't mean shit -- excuse me. I was watching last night and I was like, okay, I got more confidence for today. That's the beauty of the GOLF CHANNEL what they are doing at the end of the day; that replay is huge.
But I haven't really seen myself play for a long time. You know, not that I was winning the golf tournament, but I was playing a good round of golf under some interesting situations. What I saw was really cool.
So I took that and used it today. I said, you know what, I'm doing what I want to do and it looks like it's what I want to do. Most of the time what you think you're doing, you're not doing. And what I think I'm doing, I was doing. A lot of the shots I saw I felt that and I saw it.
It was a huge thing to watch that a little bit last night. The main question was again? Say it again?

Q. Just the death of banter.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I'm sorry.
My point was, I mean, I got a hundred phone calls yesterday about how much we were laughing. Well, why wouldn't I laugh? Okay. I'm on television, that's nice. I have to be playing good to be on television, so I'm going to be happy. Plus I love what I'm doing again because I'm not hurt.
They always say, you do this and you do that and everybody likes to watch you. Well, it's the greatest job in the world if you can get it. And some of the guys don't understand it. They will. They definitely will. I hope.

Q. Is it a matter of age?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know. I was always completely out of my mind. (Laughter).
You know, when I was a kid, I was much shyer than I am now. Much more withdrawn I guess would you say.
So I understand it. I'm not putting them down. I'm just saying, it would be -- you can't change a guy, he is the way he is. You can't just say, well, be like him or be like him. It's just not going to work. But people definitely like to watch people enjoying themselves when they are playing for $1 million a week. They don't like to see guys screaming and bitching and moaning when they are playing for $1 million a week. So it doesn't make any sense.

Q. Do you feel there are characters out there but they just are afraid to let it show?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I hope so. Paul is the No. 1 player in Europe and we just had a blast out there. He was the No. 1 player last year and we just laughed our butts off all day. Yeah, we were playing good, but you still are not going to be sulky all day. It's easy to play good and have fun, but if you play lousy you've got to show the same thing. You have to show people that. That's what they want to see.

Q. How much of the quietness do you suppose is the creatures of routine and pre-shot patterns and golf psychologists that teach you to, you know, take five steps between the ball and here and time it with a stopwatch, and you're sort of before that era really kicked in.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, way before, but I talk to some of the young kids that I help out or whoever asks me for help. It's Point A to Point B as quickly and especially as you can get there. That's all there is to the game. You're either going to make your putt or you're going to miss your putt, real simple.
Pre-shot routine is a huge thing. I mean, it's definitely one of my main keys. I try to do the same thing. I try to be like Tom Watson: Bang, bang, bang, I'm out of there; he was my man.
But I think they just go -- I don't know. It seems like they go a little too far but a lot of these kids can really play but they haven't won, you know what I mean. Some of them have. But they haven't won a lot of golf tournaments. Charlie Howell is starting to come into his own, beautifully, beautifully, and Charlie is a great guy to play with. I'll get anybody talking, believe me. I get Tiger talking. (Laughter) I might be one of the only guys but I'll get him talking.

Q. You were pretty fired up the weekend at L.A., is that the first time in this Rocky VI where you sensed that it is still in there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Absolutely. Well, what really changed my whole mind about what -- if I want to come back at the end of the year was Augusta National last year, that whole unbelievable set of circumstances that happened in seven or eight hours from the 15th hole on the third round to the 9th hole on the last round, and then the 12th hole on the last round.
You know, when I got done, yeah, it would hurt. I mean, it really hurt. But I also said, I led this golf tournament through 63 holes, man. The best golf tournament in the world, I led for 63 holes and then it broke. My back went psycho. Actually 62 1/2 holes. 9 is when it went.
I almost didn't make it up to the 10th tee box. I couldn't even hardly breathe it hurt so bad. Somehow, I just couldn't -- if 12 didn't exist, I definitely would have finished better than I did, believe me, but I couldn't move. I mean it was horrible.
But I took it and said if you can lead through 63 holes walking on a limp, then what happens if you get healthy? Would I win? I don't know, but I'd certainly give it a good shot at it. Because the only thing I can tell you is that I'm not afraid. I used to be afraid what I was a kid. I'm not afraid anymore. I don't care.

Q. What's the surgery count up to now?

Q. It's been a while?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Scar is only that big. (Indicating three inches).

Q. When was that?
ROCCO MEDIATE: 1994. But I tell you what, I wouldn't trade it for the world what's happened to me.

Q. You talked about Jimmy has done for your swing, do you have to do anything in the morning, stretching?

Q. Just get up and go?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Get up and go. That's how I used to do it. It's amazing. I go into the trailer in the morning, I'll go in there and piss around for a half hour, but -- sorry, I'm just talking like me. My hips, what happens is they will get off-kilter. My right hip will seize up. I forget the name of the muscle -- anyway. But it grabs and it pulls up, and when it pulls up it might stay for two weeks. But I've gotten it worked on so much, and gotten so much stronger that it doesn't happen anymore. I mean, it could, there's no question it could, but hopefully it won't.

Q. You wouldn't trade what's happened to you, because?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Because of the experiences I've had. I've gotten in ridiculously good shape, for me. My golf swing has gotten way better and I still have plenty of years out here. I'm only 44 believe it or not. I don't feel 44 at all. I feel great. And it's so much fun being in these situations because you can challenge yourself. I mean, I still can challenge myself against the best players in the world. That's the coolest thing in the world.
I'm out there on these last couple of holes let's finish this, let's go. I'm trying to be like Tiger, finish it off. That's what he talks about, finish it off. I'm 8-under par with two to play; if you make a bogey and still be a pretty good round. No, finish the thing off. Just go and try to make another birdie, two more, whatever it is. That's what he does. That's what you all the great players did.
And I end up sneaking one in on 9, but that's the difference. I'm feeling good enough and playing good enough to where I can do that and challenge myself instead of going, what's going to happen now am I going to fall apart or is my back going to go or who knows.

Q. In situations you may have some sentimental reasons for wanting to go do well, like 84 LUMBER or when you were living in Ponte Vedra at THE PLAYERS Championship, here because of your connection to Arnold. Do things like that enter into your mind, or is it nice to have played well in that situation afterwards?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, it enters my mind. Lots of things enter my mind while I'm playing, trust me, but they are all good.

Q. No added pressure?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No. I played pretty well in Ponte Vedra for a lot of years. I've had some really good events there. I never minded people. I like when people watch. I do. I don't like when there's no one around. It's like I've said over the years, I was telling a buddy of mine the other day, I just want to be able to play with Tiger a handful more times because when I'm playing with Tiger, that means I'm playing really good because he's never playing that bad, you see.
So if I get a chance to play with him tomorrow or Sunday or whenever, that's what I want. What's going to happen in no idea. But I want that opportunity to play with him. I want the opportunity to go up against the best a couple more times and see how I do. Chances are, I'll probably get my ass handed to me. But, it's going to be fun trying not to get my ass handed to me. That's the beauty of it. A lot of these guys say, yeah, I want to go out and play with Tiger because I can beat him. You don't say that to him. (Laughter.) You don't do that because -- I want the chance to compete with him when I'm playing with him. I've done it a handful of times and I've enjoyed the absolute -- couldn't enjoy anything more in my sport, playing with the best player in the world.
I hope I get the opportunity a handful more times to see how I do because I'm not going to get it that many more times. It's a great era to be in, trust me, with him around.

Q. Was there a low point with the injuries and can you pinpoint one time, and also did you think you would never get back?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, I thought that many times, but I also said, what the hell else am I going to do? I don't want to do anything else right now. There's been a lot of low spots. Augusta was the lowest because it failed me completely. You know when I told the doctor, the chiropractor we work with that week I said, "Can you give me five more hours?"
"I don't know." He gave me two. Wasn't hit fault. Just my back is no good. If I could have lasted five more hours -- would I have won? I don't know, but I certainly would have been there at the end. I can't tell you if I would have won because Phil played a great round of golf. But, I would not have to worry about trying to get the ball around the golf course without being able to play. Can't do it there, especially in that corner.

Q. Is your swing drastically different now than it was last April?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, yeah, it's much better.

Q. Posture?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Much taller, much wider. I still like to hit hooks and I always will. I said, "Jimmy, if you take this hook away, I'll kill you, I'll kill you."
He said, "I'll take some of it away."
I said, "You can have some of it, but not all of it." That's what happens. I hit a lot more shots than I used to.
With Rick involved with the situation, too, it's been easy because Rick has known me since I started playing golf at all. I always talked to Rick about everything. Because that's just how it is.

Q. You appear to be more comfortable than I've ever seen you play on the back nine today. Was that just appearance or was that a fact?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, it's a fact, it was. I'm trying to use myself as a veteran -- not that I've won a million golf tournaments; I've won some. But when I got through 18, I said let's have a really good back nine, let's go. You know, this is a hard golf course today. The wind is swirling, it's crazy, the rough is 14 feet high and it's great. But you just can't miss.
And that's what I said. When I got to No. 1, I tried to bear down even more -- but not try, you know what I mean. I said, I'm not even going to try. The golf ball is going where I'm looking right now, so I don't need to try. Just execute. You talk to Tiger about it; he doesn't try. Swings it, hopefully goes where he is looking, and goes and does what he does. Same with Phil, all the best players, that's what they do. The moment you start trying to force it or try, you lose the game. Especially a guy who -- especially anybody.
So, yeah, I was comfortable but there's always that thing in there, there's so many holes that you've got to hit really good shots and I trusted it every hole. And I literally, I don't know that I missed but two or three greens today, if that. And yesterday I didn't miss that many either. That's hard to do around here but I didn't think about it. I tried to -- like everyone said, what are you trying to do, win the golf tournament. I said, no, trying to put the ball in the fairway tomorrow whenever I tee off on No. 1, that's all I can think about. That's all I can do. And once I do that then I get to hit the second shot so that's how it is.
So, yeah, I was comfortable. I was really comfortable. Especially after the last shot on the last hole, I was very comfortable after that. I could have shook that in no matter what.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Rocco, if we could go through your birdies and bogeys and then we'll take a question or two, one bogey today. First birdie came on 12.
ROCCO MEDIATE: You want me to be like everybody else; I hit a really good drive off 12 -- oh, I hit a 3-wood and went for the green which was kind of cool for an old guy and hit a pitch about 12 feet and made it. It was lovely.
14, I 3-putted 14, stupid. That's a hard green that 14th hole. I hit a beautiful 4-iron but kicked off one of the three mounds and went way left. I hit two bad putts.
16 played easiest for me. It was a driver and a 3-wood to that pin and I made a 3. I made about a 20-footer which was -- I felt bad actually. It wasn't right. (Laughter).

Q. It was an eagle.
ROCCO MEDIATE: It was a double-eagle, after yesterday, after stealing one yesterday; it was stupid. I was very fortunate. But it kind of got me rolling.
Close on 17, missed.
Close on 18, missed.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Front side 1 and 2, birdies.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I hit a 3-wood and 9-iron to that green, downwind, so playing much easier than usual to about four feet and then a 5-iron to about ten feet on the next hole.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Then 6 and 9.
ROCCO MEDIATE: 6, hit just a sand wedge about -- actually about 25 feet from the hole. I hit a lousy sand wedge. Wind was blowing hard right-to-left and made it, that's what happens.
9, I hit a 4-iron, that was cool. I had, 185 I think, or 193 to 2 1/2, three feet; whoops. Nice way to finish. But that's the difference. It's like those last two holes are really good driving holes, and I just said, just finish this son of a bitch off, let's go. And I somehow did.
So I know I can keep doing it. Whether it happens again, I don't know, but I know it's coming. It's coming.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Rocco, thanks for coming in.

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