Mediate ready to go in Queenstown
BY New Zealand Open | Australasian PGA Tour | 2014 New Zealand Open | Preview | 26 Feb 2014
American professional Rocco Mediate showed today why he is so well-liked around the world and a perfect fit for the New Zealand Open Championship in Queenstown.
The 51-year-old, who is famous for losing in the playoff to Tiger Woods in the 2008 US Open, entertained a packed press conference at The Hills with his charm and comedy ahead of the tournament.
The Champions Tour player, who had just finished his honeymoon before coming to New Zealand, covered all topics from that playoff loss to Tiger to Lydia Ko to his chances this week.
Most of all he was just happy to be in Queenstown and looking forward to the PGA Tour of Australasia event that holds a purse of NZ$900.000.
“It’s cool to experience new things,” said Mediate, who has won six times on the PGA Tour.
“I haven’t done that very often in my career. Never been past Hawaii. Tonne in Europe but never on this side of the world. It’s fun to do this stuff. I don’t know I would have come here if I hadn’t been asked.
“Not many people I know have been here but those who have say it’s one of the most amazing places in the world, and they appear to be right.”
Mediate, who has recovered from a recent hip injury, will play The Hills for the first time in his opening round alongside New Zealand favourite Michael Hendry.
He has little knowledge of the players he is up against. He is familiar with Australian Scott Hend, knows Greg Turner and has heard of Hendry.
“I have definitely heard of Michael Hendry. I know he’s like the guy here.”
Mediate has carded two top 10s on the Champions Tour in a slow start to 2014 and he believes that he is going to contend for the title on Sunday.
“I didn’t come just to hang. There’s no excuses, I feel fine and I’ll be ready to go. I love four-round events. After just a year on the Champions Tour I’m still not used to the three rounds, after 27 years of four-round events.”
He said he has played in a pro-am atmosphere “a million times” throughout his career and is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with former Black Cap Mark Richardson.
He said he is “a nightmare” to play with as it’s impossible to out-talk him which Richardson has threatened to try.
“You can’t screw me up, only I can,” he laughed of the banter. “I love that part [with the amateurs]. There will be a lot of talking and fun. That’s what it’s all about.”
You could sense that Mediate was waiting for questions on his glimpse at major glory that was famously taken from him by Woods – the last time the World No.1 won a major championship.
“I don’t remember, really, I know it was somewhere in Southern California, a few years back, and some guy beat me. He supposedly had a broken leg. He seemed fine on Monday.”
Mediate joked he “never gets a Christmas card from Tiger” and would love to hear the 14-time major champion’s take on the US Open of 2008. He’s never heard it.
What he has heard plenty is questions about that tournament at Torrey Pines.
“All the time, and it’s OK. That was a very important day. I loved it all. I remember it all. It was an amazing week.”
Mediate reflected that he was lucky to be even be there that week as he only made the field through final qualifying. But his memories from that time are all positive.
“It was one of the coolest things ever. Obviously I don’t have the trophy. I covet that the most, our Open. But I’ve said it a million times and I’d be happy to say it again, if I had’ve bogeyed the last three holes on Sunday or bogeyed
the last three holes on Monday to lose, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here.
“Those things destroy careers but I didn’t do that. I played my butt off and got beat by insanity. What Tiger did, it was ridiculous. I kept looking at him and was like ’what is your problem?’. So that’s the difference and then two years
later I won at Fry’s [Frys.Com Open], that was the biggest moments of my entire career because I didn’t want to end my career – if I had to end it – on that last thing [the 2008 US Open] and no one really knows and not many people remember Frys or even know I won Frys but I do and that’s where the difference was. Although it was really great and cool [at the US Open], I didn’t want that to be it."
It wasn’t it and Mediate is still fighting fit and ready to win six years on. He said to win the New Zealand Open would probably rate right alongside his win at the Frys.Com Open.
“Fry’s saved me because it got me to play right up to the Champion’s Tour but to compete on any of these tours it would be great to have a chance. It would be great to play good enough to be around on Sunday somewhere in the mix, that would be cool.”
“It’s the Open of this country. It’s cool and hopefully we are going to get some television coverage pretty soon because it deserves it.”
The 94th staging of the New Zealand Open begins tomorrow at The Hills and Millbrook.