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March 28, 2007

Rocco Mediate


DOUG MILNE: Okay. Well, we'd like to welcome Rocco Mediate. Not exactly breaking news, his history of back problems. But so far this year, the man is two Top-10s, tied for 9th in L.A., and more impressive is your runner-up finish at Bay Hill.
Just a couple of general comments. Your first return here from '95.

Q. Why do you hate Houston, Rocco?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's never fit. I've been hurt so much, I didn't play much, especially this time of year.
DOUG MILNE: Does it feel good to be back?
ROCCO MEDIATE: First time I saw the golf course was today. You can see what you're trying to do. It's right in front of you. It's some interesting green sites, but they try to make it like Augusta, and they've done a pretty good job of it around the greens, especially with the rough stuff. It's enough to get you some of these greens. So it's not bad. The scores were low last year, but it was firm, wasn't it? Playing a lot longer, I guess, this year.

Q. Last year also a different setup.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Normal setup? Okay. We'll see how it is.

Q. No wind. Lot of rain earlier in the week so it was soft.
ROCCO MEDIATE: We're supposed to get some rain I think on Friday.

Q. How is the back feeling? You were bouncing off the walls in Bay Hill.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Big story to that. A little surprise for you a little bit, but we won't say anything about that yet.
Everything is great. It's a hundred percent. I haven't been able to say that in about five years. So I knew if I could get back to a hundred percent, I could compete with these guys as long as I wanted to.
I think I was right. I know I can now, and I know what I have to do to keep it where it is. It's actually kind of simple now because there's a few problems I didn't know about and now I do.
There were problems that were missed for umpteen years. What's the word, umpteen? My mom used that all the time. That means like a lot of years.

Q. I know that one.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Do you think you've heard that?

Q. Came all the way down to Texas?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Holly shit. But, yeah, a lot of things --

Q. What was missed? You said you missed some things.
ROCCO MEDIATE: The surprise will tell you that in few minutes, but other than that, there was a lot of things missed. One main thing that caused the main problem, I won't do it justice telling you, but the surprise will. She's sitting right there. I met Cindi in L.A.

Q. That's the soon to be famous Cindi?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. No one -- it was a weird situation that week. I stayed with some people out there. They said, "Do you get any work done on your back?" I was driving from Pebble Beach. Actually I kind of do. I was okay but still some messy stuff and met her on Monday, and by Wednesday I could do cartwheels. You wouldn't want to see that, but I could do cartwheels if I needed to.
The weirdest thing about it, on Thursday morning when I went out to play, I felt -- I felt so weird, I guess is a good word for it, because I couldn't -- like the first five, six holes. I was three over-par at four, five holes. I didn't have to protect anything, but I still was.
Then let go the rest of that week, and it was ridiculous what I did with my golf ball since then. Because I haven't been able to let go for five years. The certain things she fixed were fixed, then I could move. That's all I try to do. It's a long story about the golf swing, but movement is the key to me, especially back and forth movement. That was destroyed with all these injuries, destroyed.
Jimmy Ballard came into the mix two years ago and got me set, and this took that out and it let me use what he's taught me, and I've hit the ball better than I've ever hit it in my life the last month. I still got way more to go, but I mean I can do it. I get up every morning. I don't have to warm up if I don't want to.
CINDI HILFMAN: Well, semi.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't if I don't want to, especially if it's hot. So there's a lot of -- that's really what turned it around. All of a sudden, I got a little bit of confidence coming out Los Angeles, which is my favorite place in the world, Riviera is, and I kind of rode that -- I played Honda.
Then I missed the cut at Tampa, making two horrible swings coming in the last two, three drives.
It really helped me missing that cut by one driving it down on 7, 8, and 9 hit it both left. I worked on the feeling I had and got rid of it. Because it was a forcing feeling. The forcing came from all the injury.
I played a practice round actually with Zinger and a couple other buddies that Sunday or Saturday. One of those days. I went ahead and let go and even more, and it was right there and I hit one ball left at Bay Hill, one. Because I just let go. Didn't have to try to force it to hook. My swing naturally draws. I was trying to force it back into play. I overdid it twice and made two bogies and missed the cut at Tampa and made me angry because it was one of my favorite courses, too.
When I went to Bay Hill, I trust it, trust it, trust it. Felt good all the time. I knew I could do it if I got healthy. There was never a doubt, but I was in doubt to get healthy.

Q. You look like a guy, you know, into last year, start of this year, who is kind of trying to figure out what your next career move is going to be.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Sure. In December I decided that I was going to give it one more try. Of course, then I'll give it another try.
You know, the Golf Channel asked to do 16. I said, "No, I'll do the first three." Try to play a full schedule this year, and I was on sponsors exemptions.
I had a medical but -- I got in most of the tournaments I wanted. If I could get in a few and get healthy, really do this, I'll get out of that thing, which I wanted to.
I don't -- I -- first time I ever had to do it. I don't like doing it. I had to ask. I belonged there. I never was one of those guys I shouldn't be doing this. That's where I was. If you're there, that's where you should be. That's how I took that and then I got, you know, my job for 22 years I got what I wanted.
I was actually very touched by some of them, especially L.A. I got two of the main exemptions I wanted this year where it was L.A. and Bay Hill, because with Arnold and I -- see what happened there -- and then I was 9th -- what did I do, 9th or 10th? 9th. 9th and 2nd. Put me back in the normal category again.
You think about -- I did my job for 22 years. I did what I was supposed to do, and it paid off a little bit when I needed it. First time I ever really needed it, it was fun.
As far as the back is, I'm not really concerned about it at all. I still watch. I still do what I'm supposed to do, but I'm not -- it's not even a thought. It's been a long time.
It was weird in L.A., having that feeling. I don't even think I really told you that. Did I tell you that? I don't think so.
I couldn't control -- I had control, but I wouldn't use it for the first six holes. I was still afraid. That's enough of this crap. I let go and all of a sudden "bang."
The ball started to go where I was looking every time. When I used to be pretty good at hitting my ball until this went away, now I'm better than I was before, which is fine for me.
I'm not saying I'm the best by any means, but I'm better than I was before.

Q. What does this have you thinking you can do out here?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Anything. See, one thing I'm not is afraid. I can tell you that right now. If I get in the hunt, I'm not going -- you know, I may have a bad round because you get -- I shot 76 at Pebble -- at Bay Hill on Sunday, but it wasn't because I was afraid. Hit a couple bad shots and putts. That golf course was so hard, it happens.
That's why I walked off the green as making a birdie. I'm only five behind. This golf course, that's nothing. I almost did. I played as good as I could play. Really I putted. I did everything way better than Saturday, which is good. Gave me a lot of confidence.

Q. I wonder how big that would have been for you to have the bounce back.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Bounce back? What do you mean?

Q. Bounce back Sunday after --
ROCCO MEDIATE: After I birdied 18, I walked off and I told Marty, "This thing isn't over yet." I know I'm playing good. I made two, three bad moves on Saturday. That was the end. I made it in the wrong place, which is what Bay Hill does.
I didn't putt worth a crap all day. It happens. I was nervous, but I felt great. Came out firing. I played great coming out of the box, which was the most thing I was -- most thing I was concerned about, getting off to any type of start. I hit it to 3 feet on No. 1 with a 4-iron. I'm alright. I made a couple more mistakes and "Bang," you got 76.

Q. Were you a guy who as a young player was afraid at all?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Scared to death. I had never been there. I never -- I remember talking to Ken Venturi about it. I get up there in the Top-10 or something on Saturday and I get nervous. He says, "You'll get out of that." I was never a protege when I was a kid. I won a couple college events. You come out here with these guys, it's a bit different.
Yeah, I definitely was afraid early in my career. Now I don't care.

Q. Did you reach the "I don't care" after a bunch of injuries, or did you get to the --
ROCCO MEDIATE: After I -- Phoenix was huge because that really set me free a little bit and then I got -- then Phoenix, then Buick the next year, then two years later Greensboro. I was right. That's when it went sideways.
After Greensboro, I was done again. Greensboro '93, had a surgery the next year. Greensboro in 2002. It went bad in '03. No surgery but bad. Really bad.
Unfortunately what Cindi fixed in L.A., if I would have known her back then, it would not have gone bad again. That's what the whole problem was. The whole problem. It made so much sense what's she told me what the muscle does. At Augusta National last year, I might have won the Masters. I was leading after 63 holes. I was loving it, but I couldn't walk, hardly get up to the 10th tee box.
If I would have had that knowledge back then, I might have won.
That's what kept me coming back this year. I lead this of golf tournament through 63 holes. I must still be able to play. I just looked at it that way. It hurt for awhile but not that long.

Q. How would you manage the pain?
ROCCO MEDIATE: How did I? I didn't take any drugs or anything like that.

Q. Did it --
ROCCO MEDIATE: When this thing locked on, it put me down for a minimum of two weeks down. There were days where I couldn't get my foot on the floor out of the bed for 45 minutes. It would take me an hour to get down stairs. Just horrible. People don't -- you know, it's been injured so long that people get sick of hearing it. I get sick of talking about it.
Now I don't talk about it as much because all of a sudden, I'm starting to play better, that goes away.
The fix that was done saved me, period.

Q. It was muscular that affected skeletal?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. It locked it right down. It was just --
Q. That would move -- put the pressure on the nerve?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It pulled my right hip up. She'll tell you all about it. It pulled my right hip up like this (indicating). That's what I felt, and I couldn't -- it would not move. It was so locked down, it wouldn't go anywhere. That was the nature of the problem. I didn't know -- never knew that. I was pretty strong. I'm very fit now.
Even through the hurt years, I stayed as good as I could. I might have been 10 pounds heavier at my worst. That was like 200, 205 pounds, which is fine. That wasn't what was doing it. I couldn't do anything.

Q. It was lower back, sacrum?
DOUG MILNE: You want to come up?
CINDI HILFMAN: I'll stay right here.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Out of her element.
CINDI HILFMAN: It's actually -- the muscles called the quadratus lumborum. It's the stabilizer of the SI. It attaches to the lumbar vertebrae as well. It's a very strong. It's the hip hiker, the one that hikes the hip. It is entirely, you know, malaligned. It can pull segments and he gets -- he has a hypermobile SI joint from a lot of manipulation over the years.
So it's a huge trigger point. I've never seen anything like that. You can see it from across the parking lot, like that kind of thing. "I can't believe that. Get your money back. You've been working with the wrong people for a long time."
You know, that's the problem. It's not like it would never bother you again. You have to work at it.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Sure. Now that I know what the problem is, I know how to fix it.
CINDI HILFMAN: Easy. You've done a lot of weight loss and core work, which has helped you.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I had to do that. But still was locking down, still was no good. It's been good. I'm pleased with everything. I mean, it came a little quicker than I thought it would, tell you the truth, but when I got close at Arnold's event, I just -- I really liked that feeling.
Haven't had that feeling in a long time, even going on Saturday and Sunday, especially. When I turned, I had the lead. Oh, this is perfect. Then I saw Tiger right behind. That's even more perfect. That's what I wanted.
I still wanted another couple shots at him to beat him heads-up. I would love to try again. That's what you want.
When I saw that I went, "Uh-huh." I hit a whole bunch of good shots. I made a good one on 14, missed a couple drives. I missed a drive on 15 by a yard I had to pitch out. Still made a 4, but I was right there, and I enjoy that feeling again.
I hope this works out like this whole thing has played out. Vijay went crazy for four holes and was pretty much over. It's a feeling that you can't -- you don't get to have unless you're right there. It's been a long, long, long time for that since that happened.
I went right back into it because now I was confident what my body was going to do for me. I wasn't concerned about the end result. When I got on 18, Arnold and I talked about it after we were done.
He goes, "You were trying to do something funny on 18."
Yes, sir, I was. Trying to hit a big hard hook down the right and snap it over to the left side to have the angle back into the pin. If I make 3, the game is over. I would have probably been right. I blocked it just a little bit.
The thing I liked about it, he says, "You gave it a shot. You could have laid it down there, hit it 25 feet left of the hole and made your par."
I didn't like to do that. I felt even on 17 Marty said, "You going to go a little left of the pin?" I can't do it. I got to take a shot. Right at the flag about a foot shot of perfect. I made a 3, but I can live with that, you know. If I drive it perfect on 18 and it hits the rocks, I can live with that too. I'm trying to win something. I'm not trying to, oh shit, hit it over there.
The hardest shot I had all week was my third shot to 18 was a 4-iron. That was one I couldn't go at the flag because now I'm trying to finish second because I can't win. I hit it to the left and almost made that one.
I just couldn't -- I couldn't try to do that because I had a shot at it. That's how I looked at it. Not that I have that many shots, but I've never been afraid to take one. I'll lose before I hit it on the green and 2 putt for par. I'll try to win before I lose.
I haven't had that many chances, but I enjoy it when I do. It's a lot of fun.
DOUG MILNE: You had mentioned I guess the weight loss. It's tough to lose weight. It's tougher to keep it off. But it's virtually impossible to keep it off when you're in debilitating pain.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Especially how I like to eat. It could be trouble.
DOUG MILNE: How did you manage?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I kept doing the same thing. I got to do a little bit of work. Not a lot. Once I lost all that, it was hard to put it back. I wasn't going to do that again, no matter what.
That was easy. I have to. I don't have anything else to do. What am I going to do? I love this. I say it's the best job in the world if you can get it. It's the best job in the world if you can get it.

Q. So it's fun again?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's a blast.

Q. Did it cease being fun?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It never became a job. It ceased being fun because I couldn't perform. I really wasn't myself. I didn't lose my game, I lost my body. If I would have lost my game with a perfect body, I need to find a new job.
It's real simple. I always say if you can't make a living out here in 20, 25 weeks, you need to find a new job. Sorry.
We'll talk about what I'm going to talk about in a second about this Tiger stuff going on here with this tournament. I'm adamant about this crap that's going on. Want to go?
It's ridiculous what's going on. It's ridiculous.
There's so much effort being spent on trying to make his tournament what everybody else wants, but it's his tournament. You going to change Arnold or Jack's tournament? Change Colonial? What other invitationals do we have? Tiger wants a 50-man field that he's going to get.
If you're not in the tournament, you're not good enough. It's real simple. Play better. Nothing else I can say about it. It's nauseating what's going on. There's a big meeting today about it. That's what they tell me.
I mean, it's creating 50 spots in three other golf tournaments, his event alone. How many tournaments do we have each year? 47? Forty-seven events. Is that enough? I don't know.
Call me crazy. So you only get to play in 46 of them maybe instead of Tiger's. I don't get it. I just don't get it.
I'm not one of these top -- if the -- one of the Top-10 or 15 players in the world says this. Everyone goes "yeah" but -- he earned his spot. No one gave it to him. He earned being the top player in the world. He gets to do other things that you don't. He gets to do other things I don't.
I take it differently. I see this, I can't quite grab yet, but I'm going to grab it. If I grab it, I get to get all the stuff I want.
I don't understand why you wouldn't feel that way. I can't figure out. I'm not that guy right now. I'm the guy who doesn't quite have it, but he wants it. He's going to try to grab it. If I don't grab it, I don't get to play.
That's the beauty of our sport. You get what you get. If you don't shoot scores, you don't get shit. You get nothing out here. That's what I love about this sport.
Am I making sense? You can't argue the point. There's 47 golf tournaments a year, 47.
So, you know, no one has really come up to me and approached me on that yet because they know if they do, they can't prove me wrong. We're talking about Tiger Woods here. He's got his own golf tournament. What does he want the field to be?
DOUG MILNE: Hadn't -- 50, maybe.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Good. So fine. There's certainly qualifications just like U.S. Open stuff. Guys bitch and moan about qualifying for the U.S. Open. They have a bunch of rules.
If you go into one of those and don't fit in the rules, you get to qualify. If you don't qualify, you don't get to play. You can watch it on television. I don't get it.

Q. You have about 15 ways to get in?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You've got a hundred ways to get in. It doesn't make any sense. Tiger is going -- that tournament is going to have a criteria of whatever he does, I don't know what he's going to do, top 50 in the world, whatever. Fine.
Get in the top 50 in the world. You can do it. If I get -- play in golf tournaments and have a golf club in my hand, I can try to do it.

Q. Were you excited about Oakmont?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. I got to get in Oakmont. I should get in there because I live there. That's bull crap, the qualifying process. Yeah, absolutely. I have a shot to qualify at Oakmont before the tournament, I think. If I don't, I'll go qualify in the 36-hole qualifier. I don't care. That's the rule.
I called for a sponsor's exemption. Told them I would do a Wednesday Pro-Am. They don't have one.

Q. Unreasonable?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. I made a comment at Bethpage, remember the 10th hole, 265 to get to the fairway. I shot 70, 71 the first day. They asked me about all the bitching. If you don't drive it 270 yards in the air at the 10th hole, you don't get to win the tournament. Sorry.
Like the Augusta National last. If you don't like the way they built the golf course, don't come. They'll find someone else to fill your spot.
Hootie went crazy. He loved it. I don't get what these guys are asking. I don't get what some of these guys want. I can't figure out. You have it right in your hands.
What are we playing for this year? 7 million this week, 6 million, some silly number like that. Every week. You can will win a million bucks a week. Not a bad job. Call me crazy.

Q. You should drive the bus to get people to watch the guys 100 through 150?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Exactly. We're not putting these guys down. You've got a shot to do this if you want. If you can't, quit bitching about it. Some guys are better than you. Some guys are better than all of us. One guy is.
If he has a criteria he wants to do, fine. It didn't stop Jack or Arnie, did it? They didn't say a word about this. I can't believe there's letters going out, e-mails.
I haven't seen it because I wouldn't open if they came to my house.

Q. The issue is they want more players in the field. They shut down a full field event. They want to replace with a full field event.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Too bad. Play somewhere else. There's not a tournament the next week you can play in. It's a special event. His name is on it. It's a special event, period.
I talked to him that Sunday morning at the Hill. I said, "Did you see it?" I know he watches TV. I walked up. I said, "Did you see it?"
He goes, "Perfect. The bottom line is Roc, play better."
I said, "That's exact" -- it was a perfect comment. Said they need to shut up and play better. Even told that our whole lives. PGA Tour mantra, whatever you say has been that. Play better.
I remember my first Tour meeting when even Dean Beaman came in and said, "Bottom line is, boys, play better, you get stuff."
I went, "That's cool." No one has approached me yet. I'm waiting.

Q. Are you going to ask Tiger for a special exemption?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No. He may give me one after that comment. No. There's plenty of ways to get in that golf tournament. I don't know them yet, but I'll find them out. The World Golf rankings take care of the whole ball of wax.
I was 12th in the world in 2002. It wasn't that long ago then I got hurt. I know it hard to believe, but I was 12th in the world in 2002.

Q. You're 95th now?
A I went to 240 to 95. Another couple good events, I'm in the top 50 again, bang, in six months. If I can do it, please. I mean --

Q. It's doable?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Exactly. They don't like -- for some reason, they can't deal with it. Had to get that off my chest.
Anybody else got anything?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's been a lot of fun. I'm very pleased. The Golf Channel was fun. It was a blast. Funny how many people notice that. I said, "You better take a picture because you won't see me there for a long time."
Q. Was it painful on a certain level to be there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It was because I loved Kapalua so much. I'm not supposed to be here, so I'll just go -- I really enjoyed calling the guys' shots because I knew what they were going to do before they did it because I know them so well. I really enjoyed it. It was harder to look. The first couple days I made a few mistakes.

Q. Did it get to the point where you thought this may be my new life?

Q. You had confidence?
A Yeah, I felt -- I was feeling good out there, still good enough and -- but I still didn't know -- I still was always afraid is it going to happen tomorrow, the next day? Am I going to be leading the Masters after 63 holes and I won't be able to play, which did happen.
I thought about that. I'm not thinking about that anymore. It's a big weight off my mind.
DOUG MILNE: Okay. Thanks, Rocco. Good luck this week.

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