Rocco Talks Tiger

By Eric S. Page
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 1:54 PM CDT
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Tiger Woods' Life and Times

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Rocco Mediate, the man who nearly beat Tiger Woods at last year's U.S. Open talks about the golfing legend.

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On Tuesday, Tiger Woods' major challenger for last year's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines talked about Woods' troubles this year and about last year's now-classic 19-hole playoff for the open title trophy, which ended up in Woods' hands.

Q: What do you think the reaction is going to be, talking about Tiger, when he does come back to the tour?

Rocco Mediate: I think it's going to be a bit dicey at first. There's going to be some people around and probably some media around that usually aren't here. And I think once he starts to play and plays like he's going to play, it'll go away. I think there will be people in the crowds that are saying stupid things that will be removed immediately, as they should be. I think the tour will handle it perfectly. He'll have the people around him he needs to have, and he should have the people around him that he needs to have.

I think it's going to be tough on him, but I know -- it's like I've said a million times, whatever the problem he has is, and we really don't know, we're just hearing what we hear, but he'll fix it. I haven't talked to him. I probably won't talk to him until I see him again out here. But I can assure you of one thing; if it's broke, he'll fix it.

Q: Do you think the tour misses Tiger?

RM: Absolutely. Absolutely. You always want your best guy. Our tour is fantastic from the top to the bottom. There really isn't a bottom, but we'll say from the No. 1 guy to the No. 150 guy. It's a fantastic -- we're the best at what we do, period, in the entire world. But when you don't have the best guy there, it's not as good of a field.

You know, everybody wants to win when Tiger is in the field, everybody. If you don't, you need to find a new job, because you don't belong here.

If I was Phil, the way Phil is -- from what I understand feeling and playing right now, he needs him in that field. I would think that's what he would think. I don't know, I could be wrong, but I don't think I am. I'd like to think the best guy -- I'm going to get beaten a lot of the times, but you never know, there's a couple times it might not happen.

Q: When he comes back on the scene, do you ignore the elephant in the room, do you say, "Hey, Tiger, what you been doing?" or do you say, "What the hell were you thinking?"

RM: You're not going to say, "So, what have you been up to?" You're not going to say that. But I think we'll bring him back -- what Arnold taught me over the years is: We're like a fraternity; we're all like fraternity brothers. Whether some guys like each other or not, you respect the position.

I've always been a Tiger fan. I always will be a Tiger fan -- I don't care what he does. He knows what he's done; he knows he's wrong; he knows he's trying to fix it. That's all over and done. But when he comes back, he's just one of us. He's just one of the guys. He's a really good one of the guys. But I'm not going to treat him any different.

Q: You said that Phil needs him. Why in your mind?

RM: Because it pushes. When No. 1 and No. 2 are in the field, No. 2 wants to beat No. 1. No. 1 doesn't want to let No. 2 beat him, period. Now, Phil doesn't need a lot of push. Phil has got his own drive. He'll be fine. But if he wins five of the first six events and Tiger is not in the field, is it better to win five of the first six events when Tiger is in the field? Who cares, but -- it wouldn't matter to me, OK? I'd love to have Tiger in the field.

But I guarantee you the top guys want him. They think ... I think there's one thing that people are missing. They think he's going to be vulnerable when he comes back. I don't think he's going to be vulnerable when he comes back. I see these things -- it's available, the No. 1 spot is available. He's still the No. 1 guy; it's not available. As long as he's breathing, it's not available.

Q: Do you have a sense of when he'll be back?

RM: You know, who knows? I thought he might surprise everybody and show up here. I don't know. But like I said, I haven't spoke to him, anybody in his whole deal. I haven't seen him since last year sometime. I don't know. It's hard to say. Is the divorce happening? I don't know if that's happening, either. If that's not happening, he may not be back for awhile. If it is happening, he can't fix it.
I would think he'd come back before Augusta -- I don't know. Who knows? It's probably a great line in Vegas. You never know what they'll probably bet on over there. I guarantee you there's someone betting on it.

Earlier, Mediate discussed going head-to-head in of the greatest David vs. Goliath matchups in sports history.

Q: Do you look back and think, "I was involved in one of the greatest shows in golf at least in recent years"?

RM: Well, I've been told that by thousands of people, and I think that's cool that they think that. It's still hard to believe that that day actually happened, that it turned out that way, that all of a sudden the man is up by three at the turn and he almost lost. That never happens.

So on that type of stage, it was a lot of fun for me. I got to see what I've learned over -- this is my 25th year, so we'll say 24 years out here, and I feel like I've learned the right stuff, because it worked.
 

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