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The Week

May 06, 2002
May 06, 2002

Table of Contents
May 6, 2002

The Week

Edited By Alan Shipnuck

DRIVEN TO SUCCEED
Rocco Mediate navigated Greensboro--is the Open next?

This is an article from the May 6, 2002 issue Original Layout

A few years ago the GGO lost its O, but the tournament's new
title, the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, reinforces how
important driving is at the host course, Forest Oaks Country
Club, a tight layout all the more claustrophobic for its towering
trees. On Sunday, Rocco Mediate beat his playing partner, Mark
Calcavecchia, by shooting a 71 in tough conditions, a round keyed
by relentlessly accurate tee shots. It was the fifth victory of
Mediate's career, and it bolstered his case as a dark horse at a
tournament that still rates a capital O--the U.S. Open.

With the $684,000 payday, Mediate, 39, is now sixth on this
year's money list, an early-season surge that began with
third-place finishes at Bay Hill and the TPC at Sawgrass, a pair
of brutal setups with faster greens and harder fairways than
anything seen at Augusta National this year. Forest Oaks was a
sterner test than usual because of what Calcavecchia called
"eight-inch rough." He was exaggerating only slightly. "I
remember Scott Hoch bitching about a lack of rough last year,"
Calc said. "We all have him to thank for this U.S. Open stuff
we're hacking out of this week."

Or, in Mediate's case, avoiding. Fourteenth in driving accuracy
coming into Greensboro, he missed only three fairways on
Sunday--compared with seven for Calc--and was flawless coming down
the stretch. "They were the best driver swings I have ever made
in that type of situation," Mediate said. "I didn't have much
else going for me out there, but I brought it in."

With his high-waisted trousers and insouciant manner, Mediate
comes off as a dandy, not surprising since his father, Tony, owns
a beauty salon in the Pittsburgh suburb of Greensburg. But under
pressure Rocco is as solid as a rock. At the 1999 Phoenix Open,
Mediate played the final 36 holes with Tiger Woods--and toughed
out a two-stroke victory.

With his pinpoint driving, towering iron play and proficiency on
brutal courses, Mediate has the perfect game for the U.S. Open,
and he made a major breakthrough last year, finishing fourth, two
strokes out of the playoff between Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks.
The momentum was lost three weeks later when he hurt his back at
the British Open, the latest ding in a career slowed by injuries.
However, the ensuing time off may have been a blessing, because
it inspired Mediate to radically change his workout routine.
After years of lifting heavy metal, he has ditched the weights
and begun doing Pilates, a nonimpact strengthening workout he
heard about from his wife, Linda (a onetime manicurist at the
family beauty salon). "It keeps me loose, keeps me fresh, keeps
me strong," he says.

Mediate will have to be all of that and more to prevail at the
Open in June, but he's already steeling for battle. "Winning it
is definitely a goal of mine," he says. "When you get in
contention in one, that makes you believe you can get it done in
another."

Or, as his caddie, Pete Bender, says, "Rocco is ready to hang
with the big boys."

Trust Me

Seve Ballesteros is damaging what's left of his reputation in his
war of words with Sergio Garcia. Ballesteros should understand
that his meaningless Seve Cup is less important than Garcia's
quest to lead both tours in earnings.

O.B.

PGA Tour veteran Phil Tataurangi, 30, is on the verge of having
heart surgery--as soon as it can be scheduled with his surgeon,
Richard Page. "He's in Saudi Arabia at the moment, operating on
the king," Tataurangi said last week at Greensboro, where he
finished 30th. The Dallas-based Kiwi suffers from
supraventricular tachycardia, a condition that occasionally
causes his heart to race at up to 190 beats a minute because of a
blocked valve. Tataurangi had one such episode last year at the
Air Canada Championship during which he passed out, and he
endured a milder spell last month at the BellSouth Classic. The
arthroscopic procedure that Tataurangi is awaiting will unblock
the valve and restore proper blood flow. Of his current
condition, he says, "It's not fatal, according to the advice I've
had. Having said that, I've got a history of heart problems in my
family, so it's something I'm anxious to sort out."

Ty Tryon scored a rare double bogey last week, announcing that
he has mononucleosis as well as tonsillitis. The 17-year-old
rookie is on the shelf indefinitely.

Tom Weiskopf made his first Senior tour start in more than two
years at the Tradition, and he admits, "I stood on the 1st tee
and was a little anxious." The always outspoken Weiskopf had an
interesting take on the state of the Senior tour, saying, "I
look at it as nothing more than a pension plan. A lot of these
guys didn't get into the PGA Tour's plan because it was
implemented after they left."

The Senior tour sent letters to its members last week informing
them that the two-year-old Siebel Classic in San Jose is in
jeopardy beyond 2003 because of the depressed economy in Silicon
Valley.

This week's LPGA Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in
Stockbridge, Ga., should come with a PG-13 rating: Charles
Barkley is expected to caddie for his friend Kris Tschetter.

THE POLL
Vote at golfonline.com

Do you agree with the new Masters policy that, beginning in 2004,
requires past champions to have played in 15 tournaments the
previous year and prohibits them from competing beyond age 65?

LAST WEEK: Do you consider the Countrywide
Tradition, this week's Senior tour event, a major championship?
Yes 30%
No 70%
--Based on 2,160 responses to our informal survey.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB JORDAN/AP Like a rock Mediate's ability to find the fairway keyed his three-shot victory.COLOR PHOTO: JEFF VINNICK/REUTERS Quick fix Tataurangi, who passed out while playing the 2001 Air Canada Championship, faces heart surgery.