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June 16, 2009

Rocco Mediate


BETH MURRISON: Good afternoon. We're back at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage. Very happy to have with us this afternoon Rocco Mediate, playing his 14th U.S. Open, including obviously last year's memorable runner-up finish at Torrey Pines.
Rocco, can you talk a little bit about the excitement of being in the Open and returning to Bethpage?
ROCCO MEDIATE: We love it here. I love this golf course. It's a bit wet. But it's set up perfectly right now. So the good thing about wet is even though the play is long, you can hold the green with whatever you're hitting in.
It's going to be fun and tough. It's not supposed to get dry. Plenty of room to play out there, though. Plenty of room to play.
BETH MURRISON: How do you feel about playing in front of the New York crowds?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's great. It's going to be insane. I love that kind of stuff. A lot of noise. It's going to be nuts. I'll fit right in.

Q. Just to playoff the crowd aspect, what makes the New York crowd so different and special?
ROCCO MEDIATE: They say whatever they feel. And they don't care who's listening. That's what I like about it. They just let it -- they let you have it, they're with you or they're against you.
I was with Sergio that day, on that ill-fated day whenever that was, Friday -- not last year, but last time. And that was not a good -- that was bad?
BETH MURRISON: You've played at Bethpage before. Can you talk about some differences in the course you might see this year, as opposed to 2002?
ROCCO MEDIATE: We'll see different pins. Michael set it up different. He'll mess with the par-3s which is cool. Some short shots into in front pins on 8 and 13 -- 14. 8 and 14, some short shots with nasty pins.
He's giving us a lot of room to drive. For instance, like holes at 7 at five-and-a-quarter; he said we're going to play here, but give you 40, 50 yards of driving, which is cool; you still have 250 yards to the hole. That's fine.
If it was a 24-yard wide fairway, some of us would never finish that hole. He's giving us some room to play and the rough is -- I played Saturday and Sunday. I'll play nine tomorrow, but Saturday and Sunday it's going to be the same; it's very playable. You can move the ball forward. But like everybody always knows, around par is going to be a nice score this week, probably over par.

Q. Obviously you're here in this moment, you're here to win this year's Open, but are you comfortable in the sense that everyone out there asks you to sign whatever --

Q. They're think about '08. You're getting asked incessantly about '08. Can you be in the now and have the memories of '08 flooding back?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Sure gave me a lot of confidence. The people have been tremendous. I know what it's going to be like and I'm ready. I love that stuff. It's not going to be like a shock to me. I think it's going to be loud and it's going to be a lot of fun. And if I'm playing good, it's going to be ridiculously fun.
So there's a little extra heat on me. I like that feeling. I don't want to disappoint. Because I know there's going to be a lot more people watching than there was.
So see if we can't give them yet another shot. That will be fun.

Q. You've talked through the years about how this championship game, hit fairways, hit greens, putt, move on how does this course specifically fit your game?
ROCCO MEDIATE: There's not one hole out here that I don't like to look at from the tee box. Not one. So that's good. It means a lot, but it may not end up meaning anything. Or it may mean a lot. I don't know how I'm going to perform for four days here. Absolutely no idea.
I know I'm playing good blah, blah, blah, but until you put a score up, it doesn't matter.
So I love it. I love how it's set up. The greens are -- Tillinghast didn't build a lot of crazy greens. 15 is a little not him. 15 is a little difficult. It's a little for the length of the hole or shot I'm going to be hitting in but guys will be hitting six, seven, eight irons, but I'll be hitting more. It will hold. That's the only green that's odd for this golf course. He did it for drainage. There's such a slope, he had to get the water off there.
It's just a really greatest, obviously. This is our second time. I'm sure we'll be back again. It's just a hard golf course. That sign is true that's out front.

Q. Back to the crowds real quick. Can you describe the difference in playing a threesome with Tiger and a regular threesome; what other aspects go into crowd management, et cetera?
ROCCO MEDIATE: No similarities. None. When you're with Tiger, everybody else is with Tiger. So it's more of a -- it's a feeling I've always liked. It's more of an enclosed feeling. More of -- I don't know how to explain it. It feels more enclosed, which I like that feeling a lot.
I like the fact that people, there's that many people there. I like the fact that I'm playing with him. I don't know how to explain it. But it magnifies everything, in my eyes, and I like it more. I don't know why.
But like I said, I love to be every weekend with him, because obviously you're playing great if you're with him. Then you get that whole stage again, which is so much fun.
But not to take anything away, but it's not the same. I don't know what else to say. I don't think that's disrespectful but it's not close to the same. I think most guys would say that?

Q. Rocco, were there times in the past year when the credit that you got for fighting the good fight a year ago, however deserved it was, got in the way of what you were trying to do the other weeks, on a week-to-week basis?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Not really. No. I get it every day, every week, all that stuff. It's fine. It was a big deal to a lot of people. It was a big deal to me. I enjoy that. It meant a lot to me. I really haven't talked to Tiger about it.
But being that he's won 14, it probably didn't mean as much to him. It was one of those other big trophies he has. It hasn't stopped me from trying to do anything I've been trying to do. Not really.

Q. Do you feel you have any unfinished business to complete here after coming so close last year?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's hard to get back. I just want to have a shot again. That's all I want to try to do: Be competing close on the weekend. That's all you can ask for. I don't know what the hell I'm going to do. I don't think anybody knows what they're going to do. It's what you want to do. I want to be there and have that opportunity again and feel it again.
My record doesn't really show, but I have been playing quite solid, just not making a score. Doesn't make a lot of sense. But I'm not making any scores right now.
So I'm hitting the ball good enough to make scores, which is good on an Open course. If I can continue to do that, I should be around somewhere, somewhere. Especially on this golf course.

Q. What have your experiences been like throughout your career with Amy Mickelson, and as someone who has known to be a little emotional at times, how would you suggest Phil need to channel his emotions this week with what he's going to be dealing with?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I don't know Amy extremely well. I've known Phil for a while. I've spent a little bit of time with them both. The way I go, would go about it and I think he's doing it, is to find whoever is the best on this planet or not. Find whoever is the best. And then go attack it that way, instead of worrying about the outcome of what could or couldn't happen.
I'm sure he'll find the best. That's the only thing you can do. If she wants him here, then he needs to be here and play. I go through that a lot. I go through that sometimes with Cindy when she's sick. It's like if I'm here, what am I -- why even come if you're not going to be here?
So obviously she wants him here. She's doing okay. I haven't talked to him so I don't know exactly what's going on. Obviously she's doing okay and they're figuring things out I hope. That's how you have to do it or stay home. Because you'll make yourself miserable and she's going to worry and everything is not going to be good. Obviously she said get going and he's going. It's going to be tough. It will be tough on him.

Q. Can you just explain the difference in your life in the last year, since you left Torrey Pines?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's not a lot different to where a little, the more people recognize me off the golf course and talk to me off the golf course or wherever. Restaurants, coffee shops, whatever. Places like that.
But as far as on the golf course, it's been the same for -- maybe not all my career, but most of my career has been the same. Just a lot more people recognize, especially the people that never played. That's the coolest thing I like of the whole year. A lot of people never played. I watched that whole thing I don't know what golf is. That's the great thing.
But a lot more people watch. They do. A lot more people notice some things that you're doing. But everybody talks about it every single week. And it's okay. It's a good problem to have if it's a problem. I'd like to make more problems this week.

Q. I imagine after last year you received a lot of letters and e-mails from people saying you were a source of inspiration to them. I just wondered if there was a story that struck you as down-to-earth or stayed with you over the years?
ROCCO MEDIATE: There was one. What magazine was it in? Reilly wrote it, ESPN Magazine. The whole story is in there. Fort Worth Telegram in the Colonial. But the Ray family couple weeks before the Open, I believe, lost their daughter on graduation day. And he was a fisherman and assistant sheriff up in Longview, Texas, I believe it was. He wrote a letter to us in January.
It went to Callaway, because he didn't have my address. And Cindy got the letter. I just had knee surgery that January when we got the letter. She read it to me when I was waking up. And I looked at her and I went, "This isn't real. This can't be. You can't feel this way about this golf tournament."
He lost his daughter. He was literally, I mean, in the worst place he could ever be. He said he ended up watching the highlights of the Open and he said you showed me how to lose but not be beaten. And he picked himself up, got everything okay. Came to Colonial.
I was going to go up to Longview, not knowing where it was three hours from Dallas. I was going to surprise him. We got him to come down, did a book signing on Tuesday, and he showed up there. We first got to meet him there.
He actually got the assistant police chief job in Fort Worth that week. He moved to Fort Worth, and one of the coolest, to him and his wife two of the coolest people I ever met. They watch every day and keep in touch with us all the time. It was pretty amazing when you read the letter. I read it -- Cindy read it at Bel Air during one of the things we had in the offseason; everybody was crying. It was something.
But he used that, he got something from that. I think that was cool.

Q. What did it mean for you?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's just amazing it could make such a difference to somebody playing a game. Because he saw that what happened during, after and the days after and how it was -- yeah, I was disappointed, but what else do you do in a situation like that.
I put my heart out there. It was all I had. I didn't get the win, but he noticed it, too, and it did something to him. It was the one-year anniversary on the Tuesday or Wednesday of Colonial, and he watched every day we played and it was awesome. Went to dinner a few times.
So try to get him to come out at an event just to hang with us. Unbelievable. But Reilly has it in the ESPN, The Magazine, the whole story is in there and the letter.

Q. You mentioned that you feel you've been playing well this year. Just haven't been getting the scores. Do you feel it's more getting a couple of bounces here and there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It's not bounces. It's putts. (Laughter).
There's no bounces involved. I'm not saying we're all going to get funny especially in Opens, you'll have funny things happen and beautiful shots that turn out bad and vice versa.
Most of the time it's the guy who deals with it the best. I haven't holed enough putts. You make one or two more a day, doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a lot. I just haven't done it.
Most of it has been my own fault, bad attitude on the green, stuff like that. But it's coming around nicely.

Q. Based on what happened at last year's Open, talk about outside the course, how do you feel inside the course, like playing along side Tiger, put your heart out there, did you learn more about yourself, something that you didn't know you had in the course?
ROCCO MEDIATE: I got to find out what I had is what I got to find out. I've been saying this for a few months, I've got to test everything I've ever learned about golf in five hours. And I like what I saw.
Especially coming in, when I needed something, I needed to do something, I kept looking up and the ball was going right where I wanted it to go.
So all the stuff I learned and practiced and all that stuff, it worked. I just happened to be playing him. So that's what I take out of it. I took really nothing. Not one negative thing did I take out of the Open, not one thing.

Q. I know you mentioned in the book with John that when you played Tiger in the playoff that you weren't going to allow him to -- that you wanted to stay loose yourself. Just wondered, what brought you to that decision that you weren't going to allow Tiger to sort of stay in his own being without sort of engaging you in some conversation, and how do you think that affected the playoff?
ROCCO MEDIATE: It wasn't an effort to talk to him when he didn't want to be talked to. I don't ever do that.
First of all, I wouldn't do it. Second of all, he wouldn't put up with it. Because that's not the right thing to do. I just didn't change with the other people around me and the fans and stuff. I don't care what people think about that. I'm going to talk.
But I would never do something like that on purpose with anybody to where I tried to -- I'm not going to do that because that's not -- you can call it what you want, but I would never do something like that. Plus, it's not going to bother him. He's just going to say go away, go over there. He's not going to bother with that crap.
So that didn't really happen. The thing I didn't change was the way I was going to feel and the way I was going to be around the people that were with me and the fans and the crowd, I don't care who I'm playing with. It's like you could ask him the same question.
I will never change anything that I do when I'm playing on the golf course, no matter who I'm playing with. And neither will he. And you shouldn't. It's easy to change things when you're with him, though. You try to do more things.
I've done it for four days, I'm going to do it for five days. I wasn't with him for four days, unfortunately.

Q. Just sort of going off what you said two questions ago. When you pop in the tape when it's on, whatever, when you watch Monday, is there any moment, though, that you cringe at a little bit or fast-forward, any moment that makes you shake your head a little bit or are you still good with all that went on there?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Two things. First thing was the second shot in the first hole. I let the moment get me a little bit. That's the only swing all day. Even though I missed a couple of putts and we both did some weird things, that happens.
But the 6-iron on No. 1, I completely let the moment get away from me. I was too fast, blah, blah, blah. An d the putt on 18 to beat him, I wish it would have done what it was supposed to do. Not necessarily go in, but break some. It didn't break any. I know there was poa, but it wasn't like anybody was rolling over the top because it's just us, two, but it's definitely poa it had grown, and it kept wanting to bounce to the left instead of move to the right. Would it have went in; I don't know. It may not have. But still when I hit it, I went, there's no way that can stay right there and it did.
I wouldn't complain about those, just two moments. The first moment is the one you can go, that's my fault; I let it get to me a little bit. The tee shot was fine. But then I just didn't quite do what I normally do, and I can see it. I felt it when I did it and I remember saying to myself don't do that again and I didn't. Hit bad shots not because of the moment. It's just I hit -- unfortunately, we're human at times.

Q. To get to this course here, is there a hole or series of holes as you've gone out and looked at it that you think you guys could really have trouble with or, on the other hand, could really take advantage of?
ROCCO MEDIATE: If you look at the start of this course, 1, 2 and 4, there's some -- not that they're easy. There's no hole you can fall asleep at at an Open. This one especially. But if you're looking at the first two, they're kind of short clubs going in there. No. 2 is definitely a short club. 1 can be. For me it can be an 8 or 9-iron. Won't get it much further because it's wet. 4 can pretty much reach, if I had a decent tee shot.
So with those three holes, you know 3 obviously depending on the team Mike puts on it. 300 yards to a pretty good green. And then 5 is a very difficult, so there's a couple of holes out there if you drive it good, you've got a short club, and 6 is another one. But then you get to holes like 7, 8 and 9. And with a new tee box on 9, I think it's a better hole myself.
There's a little more room to drive it. Every drive is going to go to the same place but you have to hit a good tee shot and mid--iron in there. You've got stretches like 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Not that 11 is long. It's a breather, mid-iron in there. 10, 11, 12, there's some good stretches. If you drive the ball in these fairways you can hit long clubs into these greens.
A lot of people have been saying there's only five or ten guys that can win. That's wrong. That's wrong. Especially soft. Because you can stop -- most guys that are hitting 3-irons saying, I'm hitting a hybrid or 3-wood, they're not going to hit much closer, because it's not going to happen not that I'm that good but it's a long way away 200, 300 yards. Get it on the green and make four; that's what you want to do. I've never seen par kill you at one of these things.

Q. How rough is the rough here? And on a completely different topic, with Sunday being Father's Day, do you remember what the best Father's Day gift you ever gave or received was?
ROCCO MEDIATE: The rough, okay, from a centerline of every fairway, say the average is 28 yards. So you have 14 plus three is 17 plus six. Six or seven is 22, 23, 24 yards. On each side of the centerline. That adds up to 45, 50 yards.
To drive your ball in to where you can move it forward. That's a big corridor. Anywhere outside that you have no chance. Nobody does. The rough is this high. But being that it's wet it's going to be stickier and much more difficult out of we'll call it the third cut. We'll call it the second cut. The second cut is about seven. I walked it about seven yards.
So they're big corridors, you want to be in the fairway because wet rough it's harder for everybody. Even last year at Torrey Pines big corridor you can miss the fairway by five or six yards. That's about it and then you were done.
And the best Father's Day gift was last year all the boys called and left a message said no matter what happens this is the greatest Father's Day ever.

Q. Seems like you've embraced the notion of yourself as an every man figure. Just given fact that half the people who are going to be out there watching this tournament slept in their cars to play here, do you think this would almost be a more appropriate forum for you to win U.S. Open, that this is a course that would be sort of tailor-made for who you are?
ROCCO MEDIATE: Sure, sounds good. I don't know. I don't feel -- the only thing I do better than most is play golf. That's about it. And the way people perceive this game sometimes coming to public courses for the first time, this was the first I believe in '02, right, ever. And Torrey Pines last year and this year.
A guy asked me the other day, what's the difference between public and private?
I went, well, it's still the same golf course but it's the people that play it. I said at Torrey Pines and here, they're up sitting in the car at 4:00 in the morning waiting to play golf in the morning. That doesn't happened at a private club. These people love what they do.
What does it cost play here? Anybody know? So 50, 60 bucks with a cart. That's a bunch of money to a lot of people but they still line up and play here.
So it gives them such a sense of pride that we're playing this tournament on their course. Being it's the state park, too. So, I don't know, I think it's just really cool that they're doing that. It took a long time for that to happen, obviously, like you said '02 was the first one ever. Public golf course ever.
I'm sure there's going to be more in the future. I think the one up in Washington in 15 is a public golf course. I'm not sure. But I think it makes a little bit of a difference to especially the people coming here that they play -- because most of the people that watch Opens don't play the course they watch it on. How many people here do you think will be here? Hundreds, hundreds, maybe thousands will be watching this event and they've already played No. 3 and they're going to say I made a 2 on that. You'll get that in the crowd. It's going to be funny.
They also say the rough's higher for them, already they've said that. Good, you play those days, we'll play here. So it should be -- it's definitely different. Definitely different.
I was telling that story earlier, I played on Sunday and I was walking from 14 to 15 tee. And just Matt Bettencourt and myself and Sean Farren, who is professional at the Creek Club up the street. Five or six maintenance guys they were parked at the bottom of the hill there. You walk across the road and they've been cutting grass they're dirty and sweating I have a pair of shorts and tee shirt on that day. Because I like to play in that. They said, Rocco, you look just like one of us. I am. I just get to play here. You get to fix it up and make it pretty for us. Because that's what it is.
We in essence are the same thing, we just play better golf. That's why I don't take myself so damn seriously, most of the time.
BETH MURRISON: Hopefully we can do more but it's a great challenge.

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