Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mediate Returns to the Scene of His Best Time

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mediate Returns to the Scene of His Best Time

Article excerpt

LA JOLLA, Calif. - The guy in the signature black sweater vest here Thursday, walking the fairways of the Farmers Insurance Open, looked familiar.

Oh, there was a little hitch in his get-along, perhaps a little more roundness near the belt. But the irons still fired at the pin and the velvety putting touch, on greens that demand nothing else, were the same.

This was Rocco Mediate, of Greensburg, Pa., at Torrey Pines South. How can we ever forget? Why would we even try?

It was the 2008 U.S. Open. The U.S. Golf Association had done what it does with such consistency and delight - turned this seaside golf course into a scoring nightmare. Tiger Woods would handle it, as he always did those days and as he always does at one of his favorite golf courses.

But even though Woods won, in as dramatic a 19-hole Monday playoff as you'll ever see in golf, Mediate might have been almost as big a winner that day. The paycheck wasn't the same, but the exposure that golf fans got to the charm and warmth of Mediate, and the intangible residuals for him, made the '08 Open a signature moment in the sport.

And that is so for more than the fact that it also was Woods' last major title, a subject that has now haunted perhaps the game's greatest player for going on six years. Mediate chatted with the gallery Thursday during a two-over-par 74. He smiled, slapped people on the back, somehow turned this huge moment and huge pressure into fun. If Phil Mickelson is the most prominent non- winner of the U.S. Open with his six runner-up finishes, Mediate is close behind.

That has become so much the case that he is trying not to talk about '08 a lot anymore, so he can focus on what he is doing now. Which is still playing golf and playing well.

He just turned 51, has won twice on the Champions Tour, including his first time out last year at the Allianz, and again later in the year at the Shaw Classic. Last week, on the Big Island of Hawaii, he led the first day after shooting nine under and finished fifth.

But the chance to play at Torrey Pines is always something special, and when the sponsors invited him, he said yes. That's even though he had a little personal scheduling problem. …

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