Toshiba Classic interview: Rocco Mediate

March 14, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: Toshiba Classic transcript archive

PHIL STAMBAUGH: We welcome Rocco Mediate into the interview room. Rocco, third appearance on the Champions Tour. You won in your debut last month in Boca Raton at the Allianz Championship, very exciting, 61 in the second round, but you come back to an area where you sort of have memories with the 2008 Open right down the road.

ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't recall.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Just some thoughts about coming here to Orange County.

ROCCO MEDIATE: I love it out here. I've been in and around here for a while, ever since '08 or '09, I guess. I've always loved southern California. I started Riviera in '86. It was Nissan back in '86, right, the L.A. Open? Was it the Nissan? Yeah, I love that's always been one of my favorites, so I've always loved it out here. I've never seen Newport, so I've seen all good stuff about it. I love the old stuff school anyhow, so I'm sure I'll like it.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Can you just sort of catch us up on what you have been doing since

ROCCO MEDIATE: Just trying to get ready to go. Saw the boys, was up in Seattle for a while, lovely weather. Just kind of hanging around here, just taking it easy a little bit, getting stuff situated. We're looking for a house still. We haven't found one, so we're homeless as we speak still. We'll be in Minneapolis for summers. So just kind of hanging, nothing special. Just getting ready to go again. The only difference, the Champions Tour was a little different obviously on the Friday starts, but the month off thing after the first two events and then we have two more and then three weeks off, drives me crazy. But we still have 26 tournaments. That's plenty of golf. I always tell people my best years ever were 22 to 25 events, 26 events. Fits in perfect.

Q. I saw something where the Tour told you to they're kind of priming you for this year and they said talk to the media?

ROCCO MEDIATE: I've kind of, what's the word, exaggerated that a little bit, but it's funny because we just had a little meeting in Boca and they said, We like when everybody talks to the people and everybody, this and that. And I'm like, What? Just busting their balls, of course. It was all meant in that way. But I don't know, I always thought that's what it was all about anyway. I was talking to somebody, a guy on the radio, the other day and they said the only thing that he goes, you're kind of a regular person. And I said, We all are. We just play golf better than you. He went, What? I said, Think about what I just said. We just play golf better. That's it. You write better than me probably. I can spell a lot of words. You can look it up if you don't. So that's all that we do better, and that's all we should think that we do better.

Q. But like telling to you talk to the media is like telling Mother Teresa to be nice to the poor.

ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know if he said I think it was just, like I said, I kind of had some

PHIL STAMBAUGH: On course interviews.

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, on course interviews. We would love you to talk to people on the course, you know. Billy Ray and I have talked 600 times already in the first two weeks. I went, I can't wait for that to happen because we should do that on the regular tour. See, it's not any different. That's what drives me crazy. Like, oh, you can't talk to the guys because they're playing. What? It's still a trophy. I don't care if it's a million dollars or 300,000 to win. It's a trophy. So why is the Tour going, You can't talk to the guys because God forbid if you talk to them? It's horse crap. There's no difference. It's just as I mean, winning anywhere is the same or being in contention is the same. Why can't you say something walking on the fairway?

Could you imagine talking to Tiger coming down the last hole? Wouldn't it be cool though? What he's actually thinking? He might be going, yeah, I'm thinking of dinner tonight, thinking of where I'm going to dinner. Who knows what he'd say? But I'd like to hear it, see. As a fan, I'd like to hear what he's thinking. It's got to go that way because, you know, money is tough to come by. They need something else. We have it here.

I told the guy yesterday, I said, We're just a bunch of really good dudes having a lot of fun. I'm saying that after two weeks so I knew what to expect. They asked me the other day, yesterday, Well, what did you expect? I went, I expect that these guys are still the best at what they do because they've been playing their entire lives. Why would they get worse? I don't understand. In golf you should get better as you get older. You might lose distance or whatever, but you know what I mean, you should know more. And knowledge is king in this game. So I said no, I didn't expect I expected what I saw. I was not surprised.

Q. Has the transition I know obviously playing you went your first week, but has the transition from the other things been what you expected? Has there been anything that has tripped you up a little bit or ...

ROCCO MEDIATE: No, you just forget sometimes. Like one of the funniest things is on the regular tour you get two tee off times on your text, Thursday and Friday. So we get the first time. I was talking with Calc and Slu the first round, which was great, two of the best guys ever. So I was really happy about that. But then like Jess and I were looking. She said, Did you get the second time? And I said, No, I didn't get the second time. I'm thinking there can't be a second time, it's a weekend on the second day. They re pair. I never thought about that. So all these little things.

You know, driving to dinner on Friday night after the first round in my first event, I'm looking out of the car, why are there so many people on Thursday? And she goes, It's Friday. Little things. For 27 years, same routine, same one, and it's a different out here. It's different, but it's cool. It's weird to have the tournaments start on Friday because you have so much time between events. So it's totally different, but it's fine. It's awesome. You can take your time getting ready.

Q. You mentioned the on course interview thing, and when you come out here, as a fan the Champions guys are so much more agreeable and seems like the regular TOUR guys have taken themselves pretty seriously these days.

Let me ask you a question. Why is it different?

Q. That's what I am trying to ask you.

ROCCO MEDIATE: I'd like to know. So on the golf course, okay, so I'm out there on the last two holes, say. I don't know if Billy Ray and I talked I think we talked the last round in Boca. In fact, I know we did. I remember 12 or 13, something like that, I don't remember exactly when. And I was one ahead I think. Yeah, I was one ahead. Just, you know, it was tough. Bernhard, Tommy were playing great, I was playing all right. Nothing was going on and they were cooking, and we talked a little bit, laughed a little bit. And I still had a chance to win the golf tournament. It didn't matter. So I'm not thinking about, boy, if this was a million dollars for a win, I wouldn't want to talk to him. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. It only takes 30 seconds. So if that screws up the way you play, you might need to find a new job. I'm just saying. The game needs a little more of that because you want to know what people are thinking. I mean, even if it's funny, so what? It's entertainment. We're trying to make a living, but winning I don't care if it's for a million dollars or 300 grand, it's a stupid amount of money, you see. It should not make a difference.

Q. (Inaudible.)

But in the U.S. Open you've got, sorry, you can't oppose it. Or in the British Open so I don't know. I'm surprised they went against it, but they actually maybe listened to the membership this time and they said, okay, we're going to do what you guys want to do this time. I don't I never thought it was an advantage. I don't know what their reasoning was. Maybe because it looked funny or, I don't know, but I definitely never thought it was an advantage. I used it for 14 straight years.

Q. Did you anchor or...

ROCCO MEDIATE: I was definitely anchored. I was right in my chest. Absolutely.

Q. Weren't you the first to win with a long putter in '91?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, I was. So, yeah, I was in '91 in Doral. So I don't know. I didn't seem to make every putt I hit. Call me crazy, but I didn't. No one does. I always said if it was the answer, everybody would use one. No question. I guarantee if it made more putts although Tiger pretty much made them all last week he'd be using one. So would Phil, so would everybody else. But they don't, so that means that it doesn't make more balls. Just looks funny. Go ahead.

Q. Talk about a bit about your relationship with Donald Trump, how it came about and what you think about the proposed changes at Doral, obviously a place

He's got Gil doing that, right?

Q. Correct.

I didn't meet Donald immediately. In 2008 at the ADT Skills Challenge this is kind of a funny story Matthew, my caddie back then, he's caddie for Dave Mathis on the regular tour. Matthew and I were sitting there having a scotch. It's like 9:00, we're relaxing, we. Had a practice round and we just had dinner. A little guy walks over and sits down at the bar. He's having a scotch too. He introduced himself. His name is Larry Glick. Larry works for Donald. He's Donald's guy with the golf courses. He's kind of one of his top dudes, great guy. He goes, Hey, Rocs, just want to say hello, and we kind of help out the tournament, Trump Corporation. I went, Really? So what do you do? He goes, I work for Donald. I said, You Do not work for Donald. I said, Prove it. He goes, What? I said, Prove it. He takes out his phone. You know when you have speed dial, he goes like this, like that. I said, Oh, shit, here we go. Hold on a second, boss. He hands me the phone. He had told him, he said, I've got Rocco, wants to talk to you. I'm like, What the hell? Rocco, Donald. I go, Oh, boy. So we talked a minute. I was going home the following week in LA and I met him at his club right up here at Trump National, Los Angeles. Ever since then he's been awesome. I've spend a lot of time with him, played a lot of golf with him. I like hanging at his places. It's all good stuff. So that's how we met.

Q. Which ones do you hang out at and play?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Right here?

Q. Palos Verdes

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yes, I keep saying Costa Mesa. I don't know why. Bedminster a few times. A lot in Florida in Palm Beach, lot in Florida.

Q. Do you think Doral is in need of some changes?

ROCCO MEDIATE: At first, before the first like back when I won, back a hundred years ago it was how it was when it was built. Then it was changed a few times which really didn't need it. But now, well, with Gil in there, it's just going to get better. It's kind of freaky in some spots there, but I think Dick Wilson originally built that golf course, who was a genius I thought. He built Bay Hill, Laurel Valley, a bunch of great places, but Gil will do Gil redid LACC. I'm pretty sure that was Gil. It's silly how good that one is. So it will be good. I'm sure it will be amazing, with the waterfalls.

Q. That's his signature. I know he has his hands full with the Olympics taking some time down there.

ROCCO MEDIATE: Don't worry, he'll get it done. Donald doesn't mess around.

Q. What was it like being the most famous runner up in golf history, and then is it a little more fun to be known as the guy who did what Palmer and Nicklaus and Player did?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, U.S. Open was cool. I mean, it was there's nothing I've talked about it a million times and I never really get tired of talking about it, except for right this minute. I'm just kidding. I don't know. That type of an event and that type of outcome was different than losing I should say. I did lose though. I just got beat. Played the best I could play, and a lot of weird things happened during the week or that final day on Monday that caused that to happen. And it happened to be from the other guy on the other side of me, which it usually does. All the great ones do things like that. And you have to look at it that way. If I would have bogeyed the last three holes on Sunday to get in the playoff or bogeyed the last three holes in the playoff to lose the tournament, my career is probably finished. That ruins people. But when you play your best and get beat, yeah, it tore me up. Tore me up for a while. But I won again two years later at Frys. (Inaudible) Even more so than the open because it got me another trophy on the big tour that I wanted at 48 years old. That was cool because it got me to here. So that's how I look at it. But it tore me up for a while. I never got up in the middle of the night and thought, oh, my God, what would have happened if he would have missed that? But you wonder what would have happened. But if he would have missed it and may not a lot of things that happened great in those years may not have happened. I may not have met Jess. Who knows. Who knows what would have happened. I look at it that way. But it definitely tore me up a little bit because I couldn't do anything else really. I was the first one to whatever you want to call it, I flinched first on the first playoff, hit a bad tee shoot and it was over. I want to still be playing that event. I want to still be in the playoff after five years.

Q. Did you realize that there were as many, if not more people, rooting for you --

Oh, yeah.

Q. -- for you than for Tiger, which rarely happens?

ROCCO MEDIATE: It doesn't happen. The thing I liked mostly about that day is everybody expected destruction. And I never expected destruction, ever. And it wasn't. It was exciting coming in obviously. It was kind of cool coming in the last nine holes, the last eight holes. Even after I was three down, I still thought I was going to beat him because if I out-hit him on the last eight holes I got him in the U.S. Open. And I did. I just didn't have him. I was just one short, but that's all you can really look at. It was definitely one of the most special things, special feelings I've ever had, you know, being I don't know, there was 30,000 people following two people. The stands on 18 were full at 6:30 in the morning. We didn't get there until 1:30. That's stupid. That's insane when you think about it. But obviously being that it was Tiger, that's what the people saw. Then all the sudden after the tournament I went, hmm, something is going on here. That place went crazy. And I was quite comfortable. I wish I could do that every week, but it's hard to do.

Q. And then talk about winning in your debut on the Champions Tour. You were the 16th to do it including Palmer, Nicklaus, Player?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, I remember when I said in the press conference, they went, well, you're in the same thing as Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player. And I went, What in the hell are they talking about? Because I'm not in that. Oh, yeah, I am, sure. That's cool. You don't think about that. And did I think I was going to win when I got there? No. I didn't have any expectations. I just did the work in the off season. But you don't know when it's going to show up, you know. And all the sudden I played a nice first round.

Q. (Inaudible.)

It was great. I mean, I still think back and go I can't believe that actually happened. Then I played really good the next week and then we were done for a month. I wanted to keep going. So, yeah, it was fantastic and I was right about what I thought to expect. I mean, scores are low. 17 under and 17 under the first two days first two tournaments, excuse me. That's in three days. People forget it's three days. That's a four day score most the time. And these golf courses which I've found are not 6,000 yards long, they're 7,000 yards long. This one might be a little different because it's 200 years old. And these are some of the best courses we play are like this, tricky little devils. So, yeah, I see Naples golf course is almost 7,200 yards long. That's as long or longer than most PGA Tour courses. So I don't want to hear the 6,000 driver wedge crap all the time. It's not true.

Q. Rocco, in the past you had said many times and even today that what happened at the Frys saved you?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah, absolutely.

Q. What does it say to I guess the fickleness of the game? You're on the high of that U.S. Open playoff in '08, and then you waited two plus years to really get in a winning situation. What does it say about fickleness of the game?

ROCCO MEDIATE: One thing I know, the years I played on this tour, these tours I guess or especially the PGA TOUR is you never take it for granted because you're always vulnerable. Everybody is. Few of them aren't. A few guys aren't, but you always are. If some injury comes, it could be over. I've had several in my career that I thought it was over. Several. And so that was a huge thing because that was through an injury too. I tore the tendons in my left forearm pulling my bag to the airport like an idiot. That week.

Q. Of the Frys?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Yeah. So if I lose that tournament, if I go into a playoff and miss the putt, go into the playoff and lose, I'm gone. I can't play Tour School. Can't play. I didn't play for nine weeks after that. I had to fix this thing. So people don't understand what that five foot two inch putt meant. Meant my whole year, not just money and a career. If I miss, I'm done. I can't go to Tour School. Yeah, could I get sponsorship exemption? But not a full two years. You don't even ask for those. So that was huge. No one knows, it was huge.

Q. Then as you said earlier there was so much adrenaline, you wanted to keep playing. The principle of, hey, you wanted to keep going, I could go for the next month?


Q. How do you channel that?

ROCCO MEDIATE: Just have to understand, because we start to pick up here shortly. May kind of kicks in, which is perfect. We go crazy in May or something like that. It's different. You have to get used to it. Just have to find something to do because you're used to playing every week. It's different. But like I said, most of us, I bet you if you ask most guys that play on this tour, their best years were 22, to 25 or 26 events. I mean, we've played more, but some of my best years were 22 and 23 events instead of 30. So this is like the perfect number really. It just makes I'd rather it be like this than 40 events because then all the tournaments suffer because not everybody can play 40 events.

Q. Have you spent much time in Orange County? Are you planning to doing anything fun while you're here?

ROCCO MEDIATE: I don't know. I think we're just kind of hanging around. We've been kind of all over the place, like I said, looking for a house and doing that stuff. So Jess works, going to work tomorrow for a couple days, and then she's coming back here. So I get ready to go tomorrow and Friday we're in. We're just hanging around. I've been here a few times. I played, there was a tournament we had at Pelican Hill like in the '90s sometimes. Was it the Diner's Club thing? Hyundai. So I was here for that. That's one of the last times I was here because we don't ever come through here. But it's a pretty cool place. I like the coast towns anyhow. There's nothing we're going to we're just walking the beach a little bit, trying to stay loose.

Q. So are you going to live in southern California?

ROCCO MEDIATE: In the winter somewhere, don't know yet. In the summers we'll be in Minneapolis, that's where Jess is from, but in the winters I have no idea. I want to be out here somewhere, but I don't know where. I've got to find one house first and a good hotel to stay out here. So we'll see. I do love it out here. I've always loved this area, love the golf in this area. I'm a member of Bel Air so I hang out there as much as I can, but I don't get there much either. It's kind of hard to.

Q. Yesterday you tweeted that Tom Watson is your idol?

ROCCO MEDIATE: He was all growing up.

Q. And now you get to play with these guys?

ROCCO MEDIATE: It's the coolest thing ever. Yeah, that's what I said. I went, you know, I haven't seen because Tom hadn't played this year except for Hawaii, which I wasn't in Hawaii. So, yeah, it was good seeing him. He's always been he was always my favorite person to watch. I met Tom he doesn't remember, but I met Tom in 1980 at Firestone when I was 16. Me and my buddy, Johnny Avery, who is now the club professional at Allegheny Country Club in Pittsburgh, probably one of the top two in the city easily, way above Oakmont. And my father drove us up to Firestone, which is about a two hour drive, I forget how far it was, and we got to meet him in the locker room before he played somehow. I have no idea how we got in there. Really cool because I was 16, Johnny was 14, I think, he was a couple years younger than me. And I remember we ran because he was the man. I mean, he was it. And I remember we ran pretty much every hole to get ahead of everybody, kind of like they do with Tiger now. And we saw I saw every shot. He shot 65. That was on a Saturday. He shot 65, 75, 65, 65. That was back in the decimated the field. I'll never forget that, just watching him play. Some of the shots he hit, I remember some of the shots he hit that day. That was a long time ago. And he was always in high school and college, that's the only person I paid attention to. And getting to I'll be watching him. I want to watch him. I'm going to hang. These guys are the best at what they do. Why wouldn't I want to see it? It's going to be fun. I played with Hale last week, whenever it was, in Naples the first day. It's cool. I haven't played with Hale in a long time and he still has it. He didn't play good that day, but he's still got it, as you guys know. He's still got it and he's 67. He's still got it, hits it plenty far enough. He didn't putt that good that day, but he still, so it's pretty cool.

Q. Speaking of Pittsburgh, do you plan on playing the Mylan? It's the week of 3M.

No, 3M is Minneapolis, which is my second home now. Isn't it? Isn't 3M Minnie? No, I'm not playing Mylan, but I am playing Fox Chapel obviously and that place is you were there last year, right? That place is ridiculously good. That's an original non messed with Rainer. Guys loved it.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Anything else for Rocco? We'll let you go, man. Good luck this week.

ROCCO MEDIATE: Thank you, gents. Hopefully I'll be back.