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March 24, 2009

Rocco Mediate


MARK STEVENS: I'd like to welcome Rocco Mediate to the interview room. Rocco, if you would start off and give some general comments. I think this is your 21st year of playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational. You've got a history with Mr. Palmer coming from around the same hometown, and if you could give some of your thoughts on this tournament and what it means to you and your relationship with Mr. Palmer.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think they've heard this already, haven't they? Kidding.
Yeah, in '85 he gave me a sponsor's exemption. He probably felt bad for me letting me in. I got to find out how good the guys really were. I had no business being there then. That kind of made me work harder to get back out here.
So he's been a big instrument, huge, in getting me to understand, especially early, in the early years. I think he put me there to show me that they're really good. I think that was his whole intention.
But I had no illusions of grandeur, either. I had never even seen a TOUR event really. I remember I watched the 1980 World Series at Akron. That's the only tournament I had ever seen. So being around all the guys back then, that was quite a wake-up call. He probably had his ways of getting things across to me over the years.
But it's been great. It's a great event. It's one of the guys' favorite events all year. Golf course is good, the rough is where it belongs, and I think we're going to have good weather, so it'll be good.
MARK STEVENS: So far this year do you want to talk about where your game is?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I've played okay. I've just come out of knee surgery, a month out of knee surgery. Everything is great. I actually played two weeks after knee surgery in LA. It's just a matter of getting my legs under me. I got real sick right after the knee surgery. I had some kind of a -- we don't even know what it was yet still. Maybe I'm contagious, you'd better watch out. But just knocked me out for about two weeks. I couldn't eat for ten days; it was nasty.
But it's getting better. I'm getting my legs under me and I'm starting to get strong. I was weak for a while, but it's getting better. I can't complain about anything that's happened this year. I'm very healthy right now.

Q. From what you've observed so far in the Florida Swing, anything unusual or anything that struck you as good news or strange or great?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, Tiger is back. Tiger is back. That's real good. We've noticed that. You kind of notice him every once in a while when he's around. But that's the main thing that happened. That happened a week before the Florida Swing actually. But golf is still good. People are still coming. People are still watching.
Now with him back they'll watch more. Like I always say, the TOUR is really cool when he's not here, but it's way cooler when he is. Take it or leave it.

Q. You've always been a guy that didn't need much prodding on this front. I think you emceed an event last week with the draw for the pro-am in Tampa.

Q. What do you make of the emphasis the Tour is trying to place on you guys this year to be a little more -- shake a few more hands, kiss a few more babies?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Do you want my true opinion or do you want me to lie?

Q. And do you think guys are listening?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The fact that we had to even say that makes me nauseous, how's that? It should be known already. I don't care who you are, how young you are, how old you are. We have to tell people how to be to the sponsors who are putting up a bazillion dollars for us to play golf, think about that for a second, and we've got to train guys to be better with them? It's ridiculous. I know Arnold is probably nauseous even hearing those facts.

Q. He went to Torrey and spoke to the guys in person.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Good. Well, you need that. It's not that hard to look someone in the eye. And it's like I always say, even if you don't want to, that's what you're supposed to do. We're playing for $6 million this week. Figure it out. Where else am I going to play for $6 million? Where? What else am I going to do? There's nothing else I can do.

Q. Cards.
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, I'll be done in a week. Those guys are good.
So I've always been -- it's always frightened me for years, and I've said this for years, not just this year but 10, 15 years ago, when people see me on television the few times I'm on television, they say, boy, you looked like you're having such a good time. Well, really? If I'm on television, that means I'm playing good. If I'm playing good, that means I maybe have a chance to win a tournament. If I have a chance to win a tournament, I'm going to get a big trophy and lots of money. What could possibly piss me off? Of course you're into the moment at times, but oh, my God, it shouldn't be that big of a surprise.

Q. Do you think the players have gotten full understanding of how bad it is out there, given the fact you've got multiyear contracts for endorsements with a lot of these guys? I don't think they really get that impression that they've come to grips with how bad it is.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, the golf business in general is tough. It's just hard. So you have to go the extra mile. It's just like I said, I don't know why it's just not a normal thing. I don't understand it. Yeah, we all get mad sometimes, yeah, we don't want to sign autographs, yeah, we all know that. Every player that ever played doesn't want to do that. But those are the times where you've got to show yourself and the other people, you know what, I shot 65 yesterday and I was the happiest guy in the world. But I shot 73 today. Can I do the same thing? Challenge it? Challenge it.
Mickelson is very good at doing that, very good. Phil has always been that way. Can Tiger possibly sign another autograph? Of course not, he wouldn't be able to do anything else because everybody wants a part of him. But all the top guys do a really good job of it.
I don't like the fact that we have to have classes on this stuff for that matter. I just don't get it. I'm not saying that I'm the best at it, either, by the way. I'm just saying that I don't understand it. All the money that's put up for us -- when I first came out I didn't know what it cost to run a golf tournament. Back then a million-dollar purse was huge back in the early '90s and now it's a $6 or $7 million purse. I'm figuring it's something like $12, $15 million a week these guys have got to put out for us.

Q. I was wondering if you can describe what it feels like to now be one of the great fan favorites out on the TOUR? I mean, just last weekend I was standing a hole away and heard people yelling your name on the green.

Q. What's that transition been like for you?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's obviously since last June gotten bigger because of the stage that I was on. It's always been a little different, A, because of my name, because I'm the only guy out here with that name. So people like to scream it, holler it, all the movie stuff. It's great. I never minded it. Now it gets -- it's really neat because I have a lot more people watching, and I don't ming that. I'd rather have a million people than no people. I hate when there's no people out there. It feels like a practice round. And I hate practice rounds, so it's a bad mix for me.

Q. What's it like for you when people bring up the Open time and time again? Does it ever get tiresome?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, it's just what it was. It was that match. It was just a great day in golf. A lot of people say it's really funny, last week -- every week I get, "When are you going to beat up Tiger again?" I said, "I never did, I lost. He beat me. I didn't beat him." It's funny what they think. It's funny. When will you go out and kick Tiger's butt? I didn't kick Tiger's butt last year, he kicked mine. I lost. I don't have the trophy, I have a medal. It's funny.
That just shows, all they were looking for was a game of it, and that's what they got, a really good game of it. It was cool.

Q. You've been out here long enough to know there's this perception probably fueled by us maybe more than you guys that there's a fainting factor when guys are paired with Tiger in final rounds and stuff.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't get it, yeah.

Q. Hank Haney among others asserts that he can cite chapter and verse, including you, of guys whose games seemed to have been raised up. Do you subscribe to either one of those theories, and how did it affect you being that crucible with him and having everybody watching and seemed like you were matching him step for step?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The whole thing about that in my opinion is you either play your best golf with Tiger or your not-so-best golf. I won't say your worst, but at times it appears that way because he's playing so well. So I've always played my best golf with him, always. I've always wanted to play my best golf with him. I've always wanted to show him that I'm good enough to hang in there or to win for that matter.
That Monday, that's what I wanted. I wanted to win in regulation but I couldn't do anything else. I couldn't stop him from making his putt, I couldn't stop him from making birdie. It's the Monday that I got that was another opportunity and the biggest opportunity that I'll ever have as far as not necessarily another major but with him in a major. I want to do that again. That's not going to happen again, but I'd like to go down there again on Sunday somewhere, down the stretch and see what I have.
Like I say, it tested my whole life of golf in four and a half hours. I got to test all of it. If it was anybody else, I don't know what would have happened. I still might not be playing. I'd still be disappointed. But it was him, so it's a whole different ballgame.

Q. What are your expectations for yourself on the course next month, next year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I'm healthy again. I've been healthy for a while. I just had that little silly knee surgery that's fine. Just more of a pain than anything, but it had to be done. I feel like I have a lot of good golf in me, and I still feel like I have one of the big ones in me. I just want to get in there more. Everything is turning around. I'm getting my legs under me again this year, my body is good, I'm not sick anymore. Besides these allergies. Could we possibly get rid of some of the stuff in this air?
The cool thing about now is I've got no excuses. It's all me. When you have an injury, as I guess anybody can tell you, you just can't play like you want to so it's never really good. But now if I hit it over there, it's great. I hit it over there. I don't mind that at all, I never have.

Q. What knee was it?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's just a meniscus tear. I've had it since July of '07 actually. But it didn't do anything funny until Phoenix this year; on the 17th hole on Friday, it folded up underneath itself, locked the joint down. That was the end. I went through the next two days and then I had it done Monday afternoon. So it's fine, absolutely fine. It's just a little sore and it's supposed to be for the next few weeks. All healed perfect, no infection, nothing.

Q. With just a couple more weeks left until Augusta, do you have an opinion on who's playing the best right now?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, Phil is playing really well. But you know, Tiger is getting into the stretch. I saw him last week and did something with him at Grand Cypress for EAS Sports, and I said, I watched a little bit, it looks pretty good. He goes, "I made one bogey the last four rounds." He isn't putting yet, either. Danger, danger, danger. If he's making one bogey in four rounds, he's obviously hitting it better. We know his short game is the best, but we know as we saw on television -- I didn't watch a lot but saw some highlights, he didn't really make a lot of putts. When he does that, that will be the Tiger we know, and that will be the end of the game.

Q. How do you figure he's having trouble with putting?
ROCCO MEDIATE: He just hadn't done it for nine months. Even he is going to be rusty. He's fine. He'll be fine. He's not panicking or anything. I don't think he's ever panicked. But I'm sure he'll improve this week and then have a week off and then he'll be there. I'm sure it won't last long. It never does with him.

Q. Backing up to the subject of players and Finchem's off-season admonition, would you be surprised to learn that he asked players to add a stop or two at places they hadn't normally visited?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, I know that, but that's how it should be. I think we should be required to play each event at least once every three or four years, all of us. I don't think that would be a bad deal. It's not asking that much. You just switch one to the other or add another one. Some of the guys it's hard to. When you have Tiger's schedule it's obviously quite tight. But still, I think it would be fair to the other sponsors, the lower markets, whatever you call them, the ones that aren't as big as this one or the World Golf Championships. I think it would be cool to do that. I don't know that they will, but I think by just asking, guys are going to do that for sure.

Q. Would you be surprised to learn that of the guys in the Top 30 on the Money List that more guys have played fewer tournaments this year than guys have played in extra tournaments this year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: What do you mean?

Q. Well, Tim said play more often, hopefully go to visit some locales you haven't traditionally played is my understanding of the video he sent out, and the numbers have gone down. The Top 30 money guys from last year have played fewer. We're more than a third of the way into the season. I think that's a pretty good sample size. I wonder if people are getting the message, whether they understand the urgency.
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think they do, it's just sometimes it's hard to make those changes. But you have to do it. One a year or two a year should be able to be done. It's easier said than done obviously because families and everything else. It's not just golf. In that defense I can understand that. But I still don't think it's a big deal to add one more or switch one more. Of course the other tournaments are going to get -- it's hard to. But in some of the lower -- at the end of the year, there's some great events at the end of the year, it's just it's the end of the year. But if a guy could show up once or twice here or even once, it's a huge difference, and it doesn't take a lot.

Q. Considering all he's done for golf, should Tiger be exempt from that, or if anybody should go play one in four, is it him?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know if -- I don't think he would even want to be exempt from it, and we know what he's done for our game. Everybody should be thankful. He's brought everything out here. I think if he does one more -- he could do it, it's just a matter of what he's got. He's got so much going on. When I was with him that Wednesday, he was all over the place for that whole day, and then today I think he's doing -- I don't know, but it's insane. I don't want that job at all. I have no desire to have that job.
I think he would not want to be exempt, and I think he would do some stuff. I think he did something for the commissioner on Monday with some of the sponsors, which is huge, to have him for a day. That usually costs a bust load of money, and rightfully so. But the commissioner said I want you to help us out, and he did it.

Q. Where was it?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know what he did or who it was for, but I know he did something extra that he was asked to do, and when your No. 1 player says okay, that's cool.

Q. Greg Norman is going back to Augusta for the first time in seven years. That place to him, he hasn't won, as you know, he's called it a cruel temptress. What does Norman at Augusta mean to you?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Well, he's had a chance to win. He's gotten a couple of them stolen as we know. Nicky beat him in '96 or '97. Everyone forgets that Nick shot 67. We know Greg shot a bad score, but with four holes to go, it was over. Nick kind of beat him up that year. But the other ones were kind of messy with Larry chipping in and stuff like that. I don't know, depending on how the golf course plays, we saw what he could do at the Open, but if the golf course is firm, a lot of guys can play there. It's just when it becomes soft it narrows the field to like four guys. I hope it doesn't rain there for a while.
But it's good. I'm glad he's going back. It's pretty cool. What he did last year at Birkdale was remarkable, and it was almost unbelievably remarkable. I thought he was going to win myself.

Q. Did you originally hurt your knee when you slipped on that shot at Augusta?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, no. This was just -- who knows what this was. It was just a meniscus tear. It happens. But I remember when I felt it was at the Buick Open in '07. I remember coming off 1 tee box, I walked down and went, what the hell is that, and even Cindy looked at it and she goes, you just tore the meniscus, there's no question. I went back the next week and it was torn. But we didn't do anything because it was fine. It swelled up a couple times but never stopped me.

Q. But you have no idea how you originally --
ROCCO MEDIATE: No idea. If my knee was good at the Open I probably would have won by 10 or 15 shots, no doubt (laughter). That's funny. Like I said, it hadn't affected me one time until Phoenix this year and then I had to get it cut. It's just two tiny little cuts, no big deal.

Q. Do you ever watch any highlights or video of the U.S. Open?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, sure, I've seen it a lot of times, absolutely.

Q. What about his putt on the 72nd hole? Do you shake your head?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No, you don't. When I was watching it on the little TV in the scorer's tent I was totally expecting him to make it, and then you didn't see how it was all over the place. It could have easily missed. But the greatest players ever, that happens. It's not an accident. You know, Jack did that a lot, Watson did that a lot; a lot of the greatest players ever, they go in for them, and it's not like luck, it just happens. Would anybody else have made that putt? I'm going to have to say no. It's no disrespect, but no, because I just don't think anyone else would have made it.

Q. What do you think was the more spontaneous dance move, the one that he had here when he threw the hat down and was doing cartwheels or this one?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I think the one on the 72nd hole, that's when he destroyed his knee (laughter) was on that moment. It might have been bad, but it was really bad after that because he was all over the place.
The thing I liked about -- you've got that type of player who's won 70-some odd golf tournaments, 14 majors, the passion he still has. Bay Hill last year or at the U.S. Open when he made that putt, the passion he still has, how bad he wants that to happen. He's won 75 or 76 golf tournaments. I mean, it's ridiculous.
I think the one at Bay Hill was actually cooler, though, with the hat and everything, Arnold sitting up there. It just was better.

Q. The putt on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, did you find yourself watching that replay, watching how much that ball bounced? Did you believe that thing went in the way it kept bouncing up in the air?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, it caught the edge of the hole, and it had a perfect roll on it like it usually does. If you watch the lines on that ball, that never left center. So like I say, great putters can putt over thumbtacks. He putted over thumbtacks there. It doesn't surprise me. Nothing he does surprises me, nothing.

Q. What's the release date on the book?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's sometime in late May. I'm not exactly sure when it is yet.

Q. Timing would be good for that.
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, they want it to be released around the Open. It's clever. John did a good job. When you read -- like Cindy read a lot of the book when we were going over the manuscripts, and when it's read to you and it's about you, it's absolutely shocking to me, the research that John did with some of my old friends and stuff that I hadn't seen in a while. It's amazing. I can't believe he wanted to do it, but it's pretty cool. I think my kids will like it, and that's where it's really neat.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you for coming in.

End of FastScripts

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