Rocco Mediate at the Frys.com Open
Almost a year after Rocco Mediate’s surprising win at the Frys.com Open, the defending champion is coming into the 2011 edition with a positive outlook on the state of his game, even though injuries have plagued him this season. “I feel good because I think I’m hitting it better than last year. I’ve been hurt all year, so I haven’t been able to do anything,” he said.
In an event that is now more known for the return of the former number 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods (currently ranked 51st), there still remains a good deal of focus on Rocco’s great performance at this event last year.
In 2010, Rocco won wire-to-wire and had four amazing hole-out eagles on his way to a one-stroke victory. Mediate went so far as to call his 2010 performance “a life-saving win” as a torn forearm the weekend before the tournament would have kept him out of competing at Q-School later in the year.
When asked about his future plans to play on the PGA Tour (he qualifies for the Champions Tour in late 2012), Rocco adamantly stated, “If I can’t compete out here anymore, I am going to leave, but I want to stay out here as long as humanly possible.” Golfers remember the focus he showed at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and if Rocco can maintain that focus, all signs point to him staying on the PGA Tour well past his 50th birthday.
Rocco lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and had some strong words regarding the state of Tiger’s game. “Once that (the physical side) gets back with him, he’s going to go back to where I think he can be better than he was.” Rocco has always been one of Tiger’s strongest supporters, but even he would have to acknowledge that there has been little evidence of a return to form from the 14-time major champion in the last year.
Rocco also made clear his support for the amateur golfer, and gave these words of advice when asked what the average amateur player should focus on: “First, you have to find a swing that works, and that is a hard thing to do. (Then) You have to focus on 100 yards and in. You make more birdies there than with a 3 iron.”
Rocco displayed those same words of wisdom last year, where he holed out twice on the short par 4 17th, both shots from around 100 yards, the area that he stresses all players should work on more.
Only time will tell if he can duplicate his performance from a year ago.
This week’s PGA Tour stop lands in one of Northern California’s most elegant golf resorts, CordeValle GC in San Martin. The Fry’s.com Open is receiving much more media attention in 2011 than in 2010, a product of the appearance of former number one player in the world, Tiger Woods. The site is just an hour away from the place that Tiger had his best amateur golf years (Stanford University), and the region will once again have all eyes on him this week as he looks to regain his form heading into next month’s Presidents Cup, where Woods was named a surprising captain’s pick.
This will be Tiger’s first Tour appearance since he failed to advance to the FedEx Cup, the PGA Tour playoff series that he has won twice (2007,2009).
Much has been made about Tiger’s lack of success since the 2009 season, notching only four top 10 finishes in 20 events over the past two seasons. Tiger’s 2009 season was the last time he looked dominant on the course, just before his personal life, and career, began to unravel.
Now, after two years of injury to both body and mind, Tiger is ready to win again. He has been working very hard on his swing with Coach Sean Foley, and now says “I’m happy with how everything has progressed from tee to green. I have to say I’m very pleased with every facet of my game.”
The NCGA spoke briefly with Tiger’s coach, who said that “everything is great” in regards to his game. Foley, regarded as one of the best instructors in the world, also commented on the amateur player and gave a few words of wisdom to help their game. “Whether you’re Luke Donald or you shoot 100, 70% of your shots are going to come from 115 yards and in. They (amateurs) should spend at least 70% of their time on shots 115 yards and in.” Foley also added that an amateur is better off getting fit for a putter and wedges than he is spending hundreds of dollars on the latest driver.
Tiger now has to adjust to a new caddie, Joe LaCava, who previously looped for Dustin Johnson. As for his change in caddie (previously Steve Williams), Tiger said, “It’s just one of those decisions where my gut said it was the right thing to do. I liked his (Joe’s) personality on how he was with his players. Joe is one of the best caddies out here.” Tiger can prove a lot of critics wrong who said he made the wrong move firing Williams with a good showing in his first outing with his new man.
With a revamped swing and new caddie, the question now is, can Tiger elevate himself back into golf dominance? His performance this week should give us at least an idea as to how the answer to this question will shape up.