Rich Lerner: Q+A

People Person: Rocco Mediate

Continued (page 2 of 3)

So you don't subscribe to the idea of turning over the golf ball like so many of the young power players. Why?
Nobody ever backed into it. Everybody who played great went to the target. In any sport, you go back to your right, and then the motion goes to your left. You never keep your head still throwing a baseball or hitting a tennis ball. And very few sports are done with narrow stances. You never see a tennis player receive a 120-mile-per-hour serve with his feet together. You have to be wide and ready to move. Hogan was wide and made a huge move to his right side. Jack was wide. Look at Trevino.

Rocco Mediate

Photo by J.D. Cuban

Speaking of Trevino, I heard you had a chance last May to hang out with him at his house in Dallas.
I learned so much. Best of all, he taught me how to move the ball left to right at will, which I'd never been able to do. And this is from one of the greatest to ever strike a golf ball. It's one of the reasons I won in San Jose. The shot I holed on 17 on Sunday was a flat, sliding wedge, so spending time with Lee was huge.

Aside from the cut shot, you and Lee are similar in personality, aren't you?
I'm always yakking, and my hands are moving. I have a lot of nervous energy, and I have to talk. I can't be quiet. That's just not going to work for me.

On the personal front, how are things since your separation from your wife?
Over the last few years I've gotten us all settled down, and our three boys are doing great. My oldest is at UCLA and doing quite well. He's only five minutes from where I'm living, so that's great. I spend most of my time off the tour with the kids in Seattle or down here in L.A. I'm very pleased.

How's your weight these days?
Like a damn yo-yo. When I can't work out I'll gain weight; it's that simple. For the most part though, I've kept it off. I don't work out a lot on the road. I'll stretch and do abdominal work, but I like to play golf. When I get off the road, though, I get on the climber. It's my favorite machine ever. In terms of the swing, everything works from the ground up anyway, and I'm really strong there.

One thing I always liked about you is that you hitch your slacks up a little higher than most guys. It's old school.
It's definitely old school. I don't have the body to wear them any other way. When I first came out I'd been wearing wrinkled, baggy cotton pants, and Tom Weiskopf asked me, "Do you think people come to a golf tournament and want to see you dress like a bum? They don't want to see you in a $10 pair of pants." He got me in touch with a guy, and ever since that week I've gotten my pants made for me. Even my shoes are custom-made.

What's your impression of this wave of really talented young players?
It's amazing how much better they are at so young an age. When I first came on tour in the '80s, I remember walking up and down the practice tee at Pebble and watching Nicklaus, Watson and Norman. I called Rick Smith and said, "Rick, I got no chance." Before I hit a ball I knew if I didn't improve I'd be done. Now these kids are ready right away.

If you had to buy stock in one young player, which one would you choose, and why?
I'd buy [Rickie] Fowler's stock. He has all the shots. Plus, he's really respectful in a sport where you could be whatever you want to be. He's a good kid. Dustin [Johnson] is the same way. The fact that he won after the two majors is remarkable. They both have big things coming. They're good guys.

Fans view you the same way. What's your approach in that regard?
The only thing I do better than the average guy is play golf--some of the time! Arnold taught me a lot about how to act. Look people in the eye. And that's what these kids do. Look, it's easy to be cool to everybody when you shoot 65, but can you do it when you shoot 75? Young fans look up to us, and even if it's not natural to interact, at least pretend. Whether it's saying to a fan, "How ya' doing?" or throwing them a golf ball, you have to try to give back a little.

In terms of competing, do you still like your chances better than those of the youngsters?
The kids are still on a learning curve. To win tournaments you have to know yourself and what works under the gun. I know what works under the gun. I still think I have more in me.

Back to Tiger: Have you ever sat down with him to reminisce about the '08 Open?
He's always cordial on the putting greens, but I've always wanted to sit down, have a scotch and kind of b.s. with him like two buddies.

We never have, and it's kind of sad. It might've been another day for him considering he's won so many majors, but it was special for me. I do remember the ceremony, and he said, "You've got one of these in you, Roc." That was kind of cool. And Notah Begay told me that Tiger said, "I couldn't get rid of Roc; he just wouldn't go away." That was cool, too.

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