SOUTHPORT, England -- Last week, when he was hanging out in Los Angeles getting ready for the British Open, Rocco Mediate decided to watch a TiVo'd version of the U.S. Open he lost to Tiger Woods. While the sentiment is that he gained more by losing, Mediate doesn't look at it that way. Instead of inspiration, he found depression.
"He was pretty bummed out," said his physical therapist, Cindi Hilfman, walking the 17th hole at Royal Birkdale on Thursday. "I told him to quit thinking about that Open. To start thinking about winning this Open. He said, 'How can I win the British Open? I can't even walk.' "
Hilfman got Mediate physically able. Mentally, he started wrapping his mind around the idea early in the round, when the rains that were coming down sideways on the practice ground abated and it was just windy and cold. These were not the conditions for a bad back, and neither was the two-group wait that Mediate had on the par-5 17th, but what happened up by the course's most controversial green indicated that Rocco hasn't used up all his magic from Torrey Pines.
Off a steep bank behind the green, he chipped in for birdie, then followed up with a closing-birdie at 18 to share the lead of the 137th British Open with Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Robert Allenby of Australia. "Cindy is a big part of the story, and she hates when I say that, but I'm going to say that," Mediate said. "She's the one who put my back into where it belongs. I didn't want to play over the last two years."
Mediate could have been more specific to the last two days. Hilfman came out on the course during the practice round Wednesday and on the 11th green Thursday to make adjustments on Rocco's back and keep the 45-year-old going. "There was definitely dread, yes, there was dread this morning," Mediate said. "I don't know, there's always dread it seems, at least in my case, a couple hours before I play. It's always worrying and wondering what's going to happen."
You'd never know it from his on-course demeanor, but one element that did perk up Mediate was that if he makes it through Thursday, Friday, Saturday and finds himself in position going into the final round, the guy who bummed him out so bad watching a replay of the U.S. Open is nowhere in sight.
"I'd rather him be here than not," Mediate said, speaking of course of Woods. "But the difference in this major, the first one without him in who knows how long, is whoever is there on the weekend does not have to look him in the eye. That's different. I can assure you of that. I've seen it. It's totally different."