Golf-Woods playoff was cool, says Mediate as U.S. Open returns to Torrey Pines

·4 min read

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) - Rocco Mediate may not be at this week's U.S. Open but is ready to drive down memory lane as the major returns to Torrey Pines in San Diego for the first time since 2008 when he lost a thrilling playoff to Tiger Woods.

Mediate was on the cusp of securing the biggest win of his life but it slipped from his grasp as Woods, playing on what was essentially a broken leg, pulled off one of the most improbable victories of his career in a 19-hole Monday playoff.

Although Mediate earned six wins on the PGA Tour, including one two years later at the age of 47, he is comfortable that his most high-profile moment was a defeat that has left him forever linked to Woods.

"There haven't been many great U.S. Open playoffs because there haven't been that many. Those playoffs weren't awful, they just weren't with Tiger," Mediate told Reuters in a video interview.

"If that U.S. Open playoff was with anybody else, and this is totally not disrespectful, would it have been (as memorable)? Of course not. It wouldn't even have been close."

Mediate, who led by a shot on the 16th playoff hole and remembers the day vividly, said he will not be bothered when clips of his duel with Woods get replayed this week.

"It's cool to be part of that. If it wasn't so cool and special they wouldn't put the clips on," said Mediate.

"I didn't lose because I hit it in the lake on 18 and made a double-bogey or three-putt from 10 feet to lose or something devastating. That ruins careers, that's the end of you mostly. And I'm 45 at the time.

"I just lost. I played my heart out, hit the best shots I've ever hit in my life that week, especially in the playoff."

HEAD GAMES

Mediate said he was irked to learn that seemingly every golf analyst gave him no chance going into the playoff, figuring the world's 157th-ranked player would crumble under the pressure of playing with Woods.

"He had no effect on me. Zero. The only person that could affect me was me. I loved that arena," said Mediate.

"I might have been more disappointed that we didn't keep playing in the playoff than I was when I lost because it was so much fun all day playing in front of everybody."

And when Mediate showed up wearing a red shirt, which Woods had made his Sunday trademark, some suggested he was trying to play mind games.

"People actually thought that was a planned thing. Yeah, like it would really bother him," said Mediate, whose red shirt was the last clean one he had. "The only thing it would do is piss him off which you don't want to do."

Mediate said when he woke up the day of the playoff he felt in his heart that he would win, especially since he had been better than Woods through the air all week.

"That's how you win Opens most of the time unless of course Tiger is involved," said Mediate. "The greatest players of all time did it every single possible way to be done. That's what makes them great."

Woods made a 12-foot birdie at the final hole in regulation to force an 18-hole playoff. He birdied the 18th again on Monday to keep the playoff alive and closed the deal on the next hole after Mediate missed the fairway.

'PRETTY COOL DAY'

While Mediate has long since moved on from the sting of defeat he still shakes his head about a comment he said Woods's caddie Steve Williams made.

"He said 'oh Rocco and guys like him have nothing to lose in these events'. Are you that dumb? Nothing to lose? Let me think about this for a second: playing against the man, him, for the thing that I covet the most in my sport. Nothing to lose? Moron," said Mediate.

"But Tiger had everything to lose? He's already got two of them. He had nothing to lose. I did.

"We both had everything to lose because it was the United States Open and in my world that's the most important thing in golf."

Mediate said he and Woods have never discussed what many consider the greatest U.S. Open playoff.

"That would've been fun but we never did that which is kind of sad because it was a pretty cool day for me," said Mediate, who has gone on to a successful PGA Tour Champions career where his four wins include a Senior PGA Championship.

"I'm sure it was for him but I don't know. We never really talked about it. I've done all the talking."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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