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June 25, 2008

Rocco Mediate


STEWART MOORE: We would like to welcome Rocco Mediate to the interview room after what has been a whirlwind late or anyone days since your dramatic Monday playoff with Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open. Just take us through last Monday coming into today.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Where do you want me to start? (Laughter) Can somebody remind me what actually did happen?
It's been unbelievable. Never seen anything like it in my entire lifetime. Busy, just busy. Just take my hat off to Tiger and a lot of the other guys that have won these things. I didn't even win and it's like this. It's amazing.
I don't know, tell me --
STEWART MOORE: Start with Monday in San Diego, all the media requests. How life has been a little different these past nine days?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You mean after the tournament? I don't really know how many -- a million requests, 25 or a million, one of the two. We went to the studio on Tuesday and did all the news stuff, and then the Leno thing on Tuesday which was a blast. He's a great guy. We had a great time.
Then nonstop since, just radio and TV. I was home in Pennsylvania Friday and Saturday, did some stuff there. I haven't slept much.

Q. What would you have tried to do different if you could have, either Sunday or Monday?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, I didn't have much more I could do. I had to try to hit two big drives off 18. I like to hit low hooks and I'm trying to hit the ball farther than I'm supposed to, to get some chase, or otherwise, I can't reach the 18th hole. The one day I did reach, it was downwind slightly and I hit a big hook off the tee and I had 245 front. So I had this insane 3-wood to clear the lake which I did that day. So both days I had 265, 275 to the hole and so I had to try something crazy.
I would have liked to have hit that putt on 18th hole and do what I thought it would do. It went the opposite and didn't cut and that's the only one I want over.

Q. What's your reaction when the guy makes eagle on Saturday on 18, makes birdie Sunday on 18 to force the playoff, makes another birdie on Monday to force extra holes; what's your reaction to somebody who can be that clutch?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Doesn't surprise me what Tiger does, I've said that a million times. Knew he was going to make it and that's what he does. When I hit the putt in the playoff to beat him, alls I said was: You know, I said it before, you waited your whole life for this putt, give it speed and don't lag it up there. I didn't want to lag it up there and hope he was going to miss because he wasn't going to miss. That's what I'm thinking in my head. Whether he did or not is a different story but he wasn't going to miss.
So I gave it speed and it broke left and it broke right which was weird. A lot of people were shocked and I gave it speed. And I had four feet myself coming back and that's the most nervous I've ever been on a golf course of was that 4-footer to stay in the game.
It just turned so fast, but nothing he does, nothing he does, surprises me, nothing. He's one of those guys, you don't ever say, "I can't believe you did that," because he does that all the time.

Q. Two-part question. What kind of reception did you get from the fans Monday and Tuesday and today? Did they recognize you more than in the past, and did you have a chance to talk to Arnold Palmer since the playoff?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It was unbelievable. They were nuts. It was so neat. Still, it's amazing, how many people watched, and the amazing thing is how many people said: My mother or my father who never watches golf couldn't take his eyes off the television. Obviously wasn't because of me, it was because of Tiger but it was because of the match it turned into. If he was seven ahead with five to go, no one would have watched it, but he wasn't, and that's why I think people turned it on and kept watching it.
I heard hundreds of stories like that; that "my father or my sister hates golf and she watched the whole thing and we couldn't believe it." It's amazing. That's the power that he has, that he throws out, and happened to be a really good match coming down to the end.
Arnold sent me a letter. I haven't seen it yet. It's at home so I'm sure it will be a doozy, I hope. Hope he's not angry at me. (Laughing).

Q. Looking back at the experience, what is it like for you to be so close to such an unbelievable moment in your career, and yet you can't kick yourself about it, you pushed Tiger as far as you could, and you find out later he had a blown-out knee, and then moving forward to play this week, is it kind of -- how do you deal with that?
ROCCO MEDIATE: You know, like you said, I really couldn't be -- obviously wanted to win. Thought I was going to win when I woke up, I did, because I knew that par meant something. So I figured anything from 69 to 72 would win the tournament, and I was right and I knew I could do that.
Obviously I was right, 71 kind of won the golf tournament. But the fact about his knee, it didn't -- I don't know how you could say, what I would think is if his knee was perfect, would he have shot a lower score, I don't know, because he did some amazing things without it.
On Monday -- he's very professional where he's not going to show you or anybody else, sometimes it's so bad on the day I was watching on the telecast when I was done, you could see it obviously, and his golf swing had to change a little bit. Your body protects itself, and I well know that with all of the stuff I've gone through.
When you've got an athlete like that, he'll get it done as best he can. If I would have beat him, I can tell you one thing he wouldn't have said; anything about his knee. That's the kind of person he is.
So I just have taken some jokes about that, and I don't find them funny at all because I think what's happened to him is kind of sad. And it's going to be good in the long run when they repair it and make it perfect for the rest of his career hopefully, because we need to have him. You always want your best guy around; I do.
It was just an amazing turn of events. This week is one of my favorite weeks. I've always liked Buick, and I stay with Stevie from Rochester Hills; we were college roommates. I think I've come here 20-some years, missed one or two when I was injured and it's fun. I love it. I won here in 2000 and it brings back a lot of good memories.

Q. Win or lose, there's bound to be a little letdown after such an experience at a major like that, you've obviously had tons of attention, but yet you're playing well. How do you sort of balance that going forward now to sort of keep it going, but not succumb to -- I'm guessing you're pretty wiped out.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I'm fairly wiped out, kinda.
I just want to keep doing the same thing I was doing, and obviously you're not going to ever have that all the time. At least, I'm not. But I know that physically I'm ready to go, and we'll see, mentally, like I always say, when they ask how you're playing, I say: Well, I'll tell you Thursday. We'll find out in the morning when I tee off how I'm doing.
Today, a little slower, so I felt good, no problems, hit the ball fairly well. And I know the golf course like the back of my hand, so that's not a problem. But it is a challenge because I haven't had much time to work. I played yesterday and the day before and that's about it since Monday, since the Monday of the playoff. Took a few days.

Q. In ten days, you've kind of become golf's lovable loser, and I mean that in complimentary sense. If you never win a major, will that experience be enough to tell your grand kids about?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Oh, sure. Like I said, probably four or five million times the last ten days to lots of people, you don't get a chance to play against the best player that ever played in a playoff in the U.S. Open. It just doesn't make sense, which has happened to me. Because it's something I wanted to have happen.
I've been telling people for months: I want one more shot at him. Whether I win or lose, I really don't care but I want one more chance to put myself up against the best player.
And of course everybody wrote -- a couple articles made me angry, because they were really angry, like I didn't know what I was going to get myself into. Like I've been playing this game probably longer than you've been writing.
I knew exactly. Why do you think I wanted to be there? It's going to test your physical and mental ability, and then you get to play the best player in the world on one of the hardest courses in the world for the National Open; seriously there's nothing better you could ask for as a player.
And I didn't think I was going to get my butt handed to me, and everybody else did, and that's what drew the people because all of the sudden he's losing after 15 or 17, and he's 1-down and people are going, what the heck is going on.
So that's what it was all about. I don't feel -- I want another chance. Now that I got the first one, I would like another and he would probably beat me again, but like I said, I don't care. I want to try again.

Q. I caught you a few years ago prepping in Rochester playing barefoot. Do you still practice barefoot?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Sure, all the time. It's good for balance. Good for balance.

Q. For a guy who has been through what you have with the back and all that, can you give us a glimpse of what Tiger is going through now after another surgery and thinking about rehab and coming back? What's that like for a professional golfer?
ROCCO MEDIATE: In my case, and hopefully not in his case, in my chase I was told before my surgery it could be career-ending, not threatening, so I was scared to death. What else was I going to do? I was only 33, it was 14 or 15 years ago, '94, whatever that is.
I hope that Tiger's isn't a career-ending possibility. I don't think it is because it's an ACL repair, and as much as he'll work on it, he'll be probably stronger than he was when he was at his strongest.
But he's made comments he's felt lousy for ten years. Think about that for a second. He's only won a thousand majors and a thousand golf tournaments; yikes.
I'm sure he's concerned, of course, because they are going in there with a knife and going to mess around with something down there.
So you know, as far as will he come back, I think he'll come back better and stronger than he is now. I haven't talked to him about it, obviously, but I think, yeah, of course there's always concern, no matter what.
But he's probably got the best and I'm sure he'll be fine. But it makes you think. Makes you think.

Q. The other three majors have much shorter playoff systems, and it wound up sudden death anyway for the USGA. Would you go for, say like the four holes that the British Open has or the three holes that the PGA has?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know. I think the 18-hole U.S. Open is cool. It really brings out -- it's another 18 holes. If we would have played 20, 30 years ago, they would have went another 18, which might have killed the both of us actually. He was hurting and I'm old. I might not have made it but I think we would have got through.
I think that's really good. A lot of them don't turn out like this one. A lot of them are kind of lopsided from what I've seen and stuff, when Fuzzy beat Norman back in '84, by six or seven shots. When you're five or six down with five to go, you're probably going to lose the golf tournament. So everybody leaves. This one turned out a bit different, and I think that's what the difference was.
I don't think so. I know the British -- all of the majors are huge, but I think our Open is the biggest and hardest to do and hardest golf course for sure, by far. But sudden death, surely not.
I remember when Mike Davis said if there's a sudden death playoff we're going to start on 7. And we said, sure, there's going to be sudden death; there's no way we are going to tie. And we tied. Probably shouldn't have said that.

Q. Certainly wasn't the same level, but Paul Goydos went through something similar at THE PLAYERS Championship. Have you had a chance to catch up with him?
ROCCO MEDIATE: We talked on the plane coming up yesterday from Billy's place and we're joking -- it's all part of the business. I obviously like to talk and it doesn't really affect me that much. I've actually had a lot of fun with it because I've always been with the people and talked to people, so I just talk to more people; so just more people and more things to do.
I think I've handled it quite well in keeping it together and having everything bang, bang, bang. Had a couple days to rest here or there. But you've got to take care of -- that's what we chose, and the most amazing thing is the guys that have won these things, especially Tiger, how do you it; how you do anything, actually. Because a lot of people know who I am, but everybody knows who he is, so he can't even go out the door. It's amazing.
Sometimes you get tired or a little bit cranky but you can't show that. People say you do this for a living and you win this much money, you can't really complain about it; I really don't.

Q. Last time a similar player came into the Buick Open was 1990 when Mike Donald lost to Hale Irwin at Medinah --
ROCCO MEDIATE: Wait a minute. Let me stop you. If it was a bad result, next question. Just kidding.

Q. Wound up finishing second --
ROCCO MEDIATE: Very nice, very cool. Glad you asked that question.
I'm excited to play. Like I said, I love it here and I love this golf course and it's always in good shape and it is again. I love it. I don't know what to expect truthfully. I'm moving the club good and putting the ball well, but we'll find out at 7:54 tomorrow morning.

Q. Have you ever spoken to Mike Donald? I know these guys were pretty much playing at the same time.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not about that. I haven't seen Mike in years. Haven't seen him in years and years and years.
It's a different ballgame, and this is no disrespect to any player. If it was anybody else that I would have lost to, I would have been devastated right now. But it wasn't. This guy does things that are just not normal by any stretch of the imagination. He does them all the time, not every once in awhile, especially the big events.
I was supposed to get killed and be a joke and all that other stuff that these idiots wrote, and I don't buy it. I know you can't write nice things about everybody, but I've been doing this for half of my life, and I know what I'm doing and knew how tough it was going to be. It's like hitting a tennis ball against a wall; it's going to come back at you, and he's going to come back at you. I knew he would birdie 18 and drive it in the fairway, so I had to do something funny to get it out there.
You have to look at it that way. I couldn't do more. 3-down through ten, the game is over most of the time. And obviously, it didn't turn out that way and I love the feeling I had. It was nervy and you don't remember a lot of the things that happen, but you just look up and the ball is in front of you. That's all you can ask out of your golf swing and your head. I got tested under my most intense situation, and it worked. I enjoy the fact that I know that -- hopefully it will work again and I can do the same thing.

Q. As you know, Tiger is going to miss a major now, first time in his pro career.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Two of them.

Q. The last time he wasn't in a major was the '96 PGA which I'm pretty sure you played in at Valhalla.

Q. Just curious, Tiger was a well-known amateur, but did anybody have any inkling whatsoever he would do even half of what he's done? Basically he's been the favorite at every major since.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Right. I don't think even he knew what he was going to do. I bet you he would tell you that, 65 golf tournaments and 14 majors in ten years or 11 years -- I'm sure he knew how good he was, but really, it's just the most unbelievable record ever.
You know, when you saw him, I kept watching as he grew up out honey this TOUR and he changed, his body changed and got stronger and he's just unstoppable. But where he beats everybody not physically is mentally. You saw where he hit his ball last week, wherever the Open was, he shot 30 on the back nine hitting no fairways. Go ahead. It's just -- now that's physical, too, but think about it. I'm shooting probably 41 or 42, hitting no fairways, and he's mentally the best that is probably that will ever go down in history and that's where he beat you.

Q. You had the Top-10 at the Memorial leading into the U.S. Open; what's been the difference in your game?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Just the way I've gone about it. The girl I work with, Cindy Hilfman, has been instrumental in this whole thing. She's my therapist, you've heard the story two years ago in February, two years ago come February, and that's when I was almost going out of the game. I was hurt and just got done with the GOLF CHANNEL and TV stuff and she found something that was seriously wrong that no one found, fixed it and I've had one episode since.
Had a pretty good year last year, end of the year I wasn't firing on all cylinders, was putting bad and she kept making it better and just kept looking at me going, it's coming around. It was like someone from the outside saying, you need to start over and start making a few cuts, and just keep building on that, and this is kind of an outsider as far as this world of golf is. Knows what golf is but never was on the TOUR until she met me and started to work with me.
I was fighting it at first. I was like, what do you mean, just make a cut; she goes, well, you haven't done that lately so maybe you should start making cuts; and I made five, six cuts in a row and then bang, Memorial hit; and bang, qualified for the Open; and bang, the Open happened.
I keep telling her that this could happen in this game. You could come out of where and win the U.S. Open and I almost did it and that's the thing. Someone from the outside, as far as the outside, just coming into this world two years ago on the PGA TOUR, says, why don't you start over, you know, you're driving yourself nuts. Let's go back to basics and make a cut or two. I missed like eight of the first nine cuts. So try making a cut or two and try that once, and it worked.
It was just more someone with an observation of watching me play every single day and seeing my reactions to things and telling you, what are you doing, and it's a different perspective. I can't explain it. But it's one that was huge or else I wouldn't have done what happened, because I let it -- I just relaxed and went, all right, made a cut, finished 50th and made a cut and finished 45th.
Before the Memorial, best finish was 37th but I went, okay, that's my best so far. Here is a guy out here 23 years thinking that way. I just bought what she said and said, I'll go back to basics. Once I got in contention at Memorial, finished off the tournament the last four or five holes.
And once I got in contention at the Open, I said, I haven't spit the bit. And when I'm there -- I haven't been there that many times, but when I am, I don't fall down, and I didn't fall down like everybody expected and that all built up to that week, and the impossible almost happened. The impossible almost happened. That was from all her, just looking straight ahead, take your time and do this and this and let's go, from a different perspective, totally different perspective.

Q. You talked about the U.S. Open not just being on the stage, but being on it with Tiger; and now he's off the stage, and maybe it's the best everybody could hope for in this time.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Our TOUR is doing wonderful. It's fine. Is it the same without Tiger? Of course not. If anybody says it is, they are lying.
He will definitely be missed. But all of a sudden opportunities opened up. There will be two major winners in the next month and a half or two that don't have to face him.
It's a different ballgame. It's a totally different ballgame, because you know if he was healthy he would be somewhere in there like he always is. So it's going to open up two big, huge opportunities, and the FedExCup stuff is wide open now because seriously, I don't think anyone was going to beat him. A lot of things have opened up because he had to go down with this knee injury which, you know, it happens I guess.
But I think it's sad, in that way, but it will probably do him some good to hang out, he hasn't done that in his whole life probably.
I remember when I was off for that long, I got to enjoy it a little bit. At first I was going nuts but then I got to have fun. He's got a new baby and a one-year-old now, I guess Sammy turned one that Open week I think, and I'm sure he'll have stuff to do and I'm sure he'll have a good time.
But a lot of opportunities have opened up in the majors, two of them for sure. I would rather have to do what I tried to do every time, and if I lost every time, I still would rather try that. Because you never know, that one time.

Q. You've referred to the criticism a couple of times and you've seen even Tiger get criticized.

Q. Has it changed your happy-go-lucky approach?

Q. Or is it just isolated?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, no, no. I understand the way they are writing it. And I understand that everybody can't write nice things about you. That's great and I totally understand that.
But the way they have put it, like he doesn't know what he's getting into and doesn't understand what he's done -- well, really? Of course I understand what I did.
(Turning to Justin Leonard, waiting in interview room). Sorry, Justin but he's asking me a question, and if they want me to leave, they have to kick me off and throw this microphone at you.
Bottom line is, of course it won't affect the way I am. You wonder why people write things like that when they don't really know what they are talking about.
Did you write that? (Laughing).
STEWART MOORE: Thanks, Rocco.

End of FastScripts

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