I love to watch golf. I even like to golf. I wanted to write about the winner of yesterday’s round at Torrey Pines. I wanted it even more when the U.S. Open outcome came down to sudden death. Until Tiger Woods won. I could tell you all about him, how he’s won 13 majors (now 14) when leading going into the final round Sunday … how he’s recovering from his knee surgery … how he did it for his dad and his baby girl. But what can I say about Tiger Woods that you don’t already know? Read on to learn something new about Rocco Mediate.
After I saw Tiger throw a club twice late in Sunday’s final round, I started to root for Rocco Mediate. I admit, I always kind of pull for the underdog to win – especially against Tiger, because he’s already had so many accolades. And for many of the other guys, this could be their only shining moment in the sun. I still appreciate all Tiger has done for the game, his charitable work, and the overall role model he is. But I was really hoping Rocco would pull it out in the playoff. I thought his comments after Sunday’s round were classy. I think he was even more exemplary after Monday’s play. So I’d like to take this time to honor him.
Mediate’s career has been marred by back trouble, and he became the first to win on the PGA tour using the long putter in the 1991 Doral-Ryder Open, while he was trying to alleviate those problems. Thereafter, he lost nearly five years of his career due to a ruptured disk. So Sunday’s tie and Monday’s playoff, only the third in U.S. Open history, was especially sweet – against Tiger Woods, no less.
“I get to play for the National Open against the best player on earth, that maybe ever played,” Mediate said. “How much more could you ask for? … To go up against the best player in the world and have a chance to beat him, there’s nothing else you can ask for, period.”
So it’s no surprise that Rocco was so classy while congratulating Tiger on his victory. His hug was so genuine, that it seemed he really didn’t want the moment to end.
Monday was not the first time they have tussled. Mediate played with a 23-year-old Woods in the final round of the Phoenix Open in 1999, where he led by six shots and held on to win by three. It was one of his five PGA Tour victories.
Mediate participated in the 2005 World Series of Poker Main Event, and likened it to the U.S. Open. The 42-year-old pro doesn’t bring his computer on the road, but plays against his caddie for twenty bucks per tournament-style game, three or four times a night. “I gotta work for a living. I keep (the computer) at home or else I’d play too much. It’s too easy to play,” he says. Mediate usually hits the PokerStars site at night, after his three sons have gone to bed. “I play an hour here, an hour there.” Asked to compare the challenges of mastering golf versus poker, Mediate says, “Learning everything that could possibly happen in No Limit Hold’em is much harder – because you can’t control it. I can control golf when I’m playing well and no one can stop me from doing that. If Tiger (Woods) makes five birdies in a row, that’s not going to stop me from making another one.” I’m sure Rocco Mediate would have liked to have won the U.S. Open yesterday.
“Let me put it to you this way, If I had won the U.S. Open it would have paid me a million dollars, and probably another $3-$5 million off the golf course in the next couple of years,” Mediate says. “When I come here to the World Series of Poker, I have an opportunity to win – what’s it going to be $7, $8, $9 million? That’s to play cards. That is unbelievable. It’s bigger than the United States Open as far as how much money you can make.”
I only wish Mediate could have triumphed over Woods yesterday. And that he’ll continue to win and make money, in golf or in poker. I don’t mean to take anything away from Tiger’s victory, but this was a letdown for me. Good luck on the rest of the courses, Rocco.