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Are You Kidding Me? Part 17

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It was the only Silly Season event Rocco wasn't invited to play in. Which bothered him - not as much as the Ryder Cup bothered him, but it bothered him nonetheless. There were sixteen players in the field, chosen largely based on world ranking, but not entirely. Since the event was unofficial, Woods and his staff could select anyone they wanted to play.

"Hey, it's his event and he can choose who he wants," Rocco said diplomatically. "I'll admit I was surprised when I heard the field. I thought I'd be asked."

The Costas show was the first time Rocco and Woods had "spoken" since the Open. The segment was lengthy and a bit awkward. Woods wasn't used to sharing a spotlight with anyone, much less someone who was funnier than he was. He clearly wasn't happy when Costas brought up the fact that the crowd had been for Rocco on the back nine on Monday.

"I thought the fans were great," he said. "They just wanted to see good golf."

Rocco was a little bit put off when Costas asked him about his "poor" play after the Open and brought up the Sunday 85 at the PGA.



"In one sense it isn't his fault, because he didn't understand the circumstances," he said. "Obviously I wasn't going to sound like I was making excuses, but the fact is I didn't play badly. I was nineteenth at the British Open, I played well in Washington, and I missed one cut. That isn't bad."

Instead of disputing Costas's point, Rocco just shrugged in reply and said, "I guess I'm getting old."

He turned forty-six on December 17, the same day as the Costas show. There was a bittersweet feel to the end of the year. In one sense, 2008 had been a dream year: He had lived out his fantasies of competing for a U.S. Open championship and of going toe-to-toe with the world watching against the greatest player in history. He was overwhelmingly happy with Cindi, and he was relieved that he and Linda had reached an understanding about how to go forward as parents and that the boys were dealing with all the changes in their lives.

But there were still the ongoing concerns about Cindi's health. "She's been through so much," he said. "She's a young woman [forty-three], but the pain she's gone through is unbelievable. I just hope she's going to be okay."

There was also a sense of loss when he thought back to Torrey Pines. Even though he still talked publicly about how wonderful the experience had been - and meant it - he couldn't help but what-if on occasion. What if the delay at 15 hadn't happened on Sunday, what if the putt had dropped on 17, what if Woods's putt had stayed an inch outside the hole rather than just dropping in, what if there hadn't been a seven-shot gap on the par-fives.

"There are moments when I think back to a shot, a hole, a moment, and I wish it had been just that much different," he said. "Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade that week for anything. But I would have loved to have held that trophy. Just that one time.

"The way people responded to it all was beyond unbelievable. They treated me like a champion. There were times when I had to say to people, 'Look, I'm proud of the way I played, but I didn't win. The other guy won.' I was close, I played as well as I could possibly have played, but I didn't win."

But that didn't stop Rocco from setting high goals for 2009: He wanted to lose some of the weight he had put on over the past six months. His plan was to go back to the workout regimen that had been successful for him before. He wanted to contend in more majors, make the Presidents Cup Team, and make it back to the Tour Championship.

"As soon as we get back to L.A., I start," he said the day after the Costas show in New York. "I'm not going to play until Phoenix [at the end of January] - that gives me six solid weeks to be home, to rest, to get in shape, and to take a breather. I haven't had one at all since the Open."

Even though the house in Naples was still unsold, the Open had helped put him back on solid financial footing. He had ended up making $1,420,875 in official money for 2008, a little bit more than $1 million of it at the Memorial ($201,000) and the Open ($810,000). He had earned another $410,000 in Silly Season prize money, in addition to the guarantees he had been paid for some of those events. He had made a good deal of money on outings, with more to come in '09, and after worrying he might lose his Callaway deal (up at the end of '08), he had re-signed for two years and twice the money - $500,000 a year - as on the previous contract.

By finishing second at the Open, he had earned exemptions into the 2009 Masters and the 2009 Open, which would be held at Bethpage Black, a course Rocco loved. That was the good news.

The bad news was what he would have earned had he won the Open: a ten-year exemption to play in the Open through 2018; a five-year exemption on the tour, meaning he would not have to worry about the money list until he was ready for the Champions Tour at the age of 50; and five-year exemptions into the other three majors.

"All that would have been nice, very nice," he said. "But I've never been one to worry about things like that. I mean, who in the world would have thought I would be sitting here with twenty-three years in on the tour, the only time missed being because I was hurt. I've had an amazing time. I've lived my dream and more. Anything from here on in is gravy."

He paused. "I would love one more shot at a major, though. One more shot."

Regardless of what the future holds, Rocco Mediate will be remembered for those five extraordinary days at Torrey Pines in June of 2008. He will be remembered for his golf, for his humor, for his boundless enthusiasm, and for his grace under pressure and in defeat.

"On my wall at home I've always had a poster from Rocky, Rocky," he said. "It says, 'He was a million-to-one shot.' Well, I think in all I was probably a billion-to-one shot."

He smiled. "People forget; Rocky lost the first fight. Then he came back and won the championship. Maybe there's a sequel out there for me too."

A young Rocco in a rare moment of quiet contemplation. COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE [image]

The swing in its early stages. COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE [image]

Ball-striking was never an issue. Putting often was. COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE [image]

Rocco and his hero-mentor Arnold Palmer. COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE COURTESY TONY AND DONNA MEDIATE [image]

The fact that Rocco could get down on his knees to look at a putt was proof that his back was healthy. COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

Rocco was part of an impressive weekend leader board at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

As the week went on, the ovations grew louder with each made putt. COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

So near yet so far... Rocco understood how much every miss meant in the playoff. COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

"We were two friends playing golf-and trying to kill each other." COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

Rocco sits down by number 18 to sign his card while Tiger checks his. They were still tied after 90 holes of golf. COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

Rocco: "This calls for a hug." Tiger: "Great fight." COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED [image]

Tiger with the trophy, Rocco with the medal (in his pocket). "I didn't even want to look at the trophy. It wasn't mine." COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COURTESY U.S. GOLF ASSOCIATION. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Acknowledgments.

WHEN R ROCCO M MEDIATE AND I agreed to do this book together, the last thing he said to me after all the details were worked out was, "Hey, we're going to have a blast." agreed to do this book together, the last thing he said to me after all the details were worked out was, "Hey, we're going to have a blast."

I would like to think, in spite of the emotional roller coaster he was on during the second half of 2008, that Rocco had a blast doing the book. I know I did.

The people close to Rocco all went out of their way to make me comfortable and to help me understand what makes him tick - a special challenge, since I think he would admit there are times when he isn't exactly sure what makes him tick.

That list includes Cindi Hilfman, Tony and Donna Mediate, and Linda Mediate, who could not have been more gracious under very trying circumstances. Many others were extremely helpful, including Dave Lucas, Arnie Cutrell, Jim Ferree, Rick Smith, Jimmy Ballard, Charlie Matlock, Jim Carter, Curtis Strange, Raymond Floyd, Davis Love III, Paul Azinger, Lee and Bev Janzen, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Doc Giffin, and Matt Achatz. Thanks also to the folks at the USGA: David Fay, Mike Davis, and the ever-patient Dave Fanucchi, and to Tim Finchem, Marty Caffey, Dave Lancer, Guy Shiepers, and Denise Taylor - the MVP - at the PGA Tour.

The real star of this book - other than Rocco - was Frank Zoracki, who did everything but write it and no doubt would have given it a shot if asked. Getting to know Frank was for me one of the joys of the project.

Special thanks this time around go to Michael Pietsch, my publisher at Little, Brown, and Esther Newberg, my agent, for being willing to jump into a project that came up quite suddenly and caught them both by surprise. Thanks also to their staffs: Vanessa Kehren, Eve Rabinovits, Heather Fain, Heather Rizzo, Marlena Bittner, Katherine Molina, and Holly Wilkinson (emeritus) at Little, Brown, and Kari Stuart and Liz Farrell at ICM.

Then there are the usual suspects: Keith and Barbie Drum, Jackson Diehl and Jean Halperin, Ed and Lois Brennan, David and Linda Maraniss, Lexie Verdon and Steve Barr, Jill and Holland Mickle, Shelley Crist, Bill and Jane Brill, Terry and Patti Hanson, Bob and Anne DeStefano, Mary Carillo, Bud Collins and Anita Klaussen, Doug and Beth Doughty, David Teel, Beth (Shumway) Brown, Beth Sherry-Downes, Erine Laissen, Bob Socci, Pete Van Poppel, Omar Nelson, Frank DaVinney, Chet Gladchuk, Eric Ruden, Scott Strasemeier, Billy Stone, Mike Werteen, Chris Day, Chris Knocke, Andrew Thompson, Phil Hoffmann, Joe Speed, Jack Hecker, Dick Hall, Steve (Moose) Stirling, Jim and Tiffany Cantelupe, Derek and Christina Klein, Anthony and Kristen Noto, Pete Teeley, Bob Zurfluh, Vivian Thompson, Phil Hocberg, Al Hunt, Bob Novak, Wayne Zell, Mike and David Sanders, Bob Whitmore, Tony Kornheiser, Mike Wilbon, Mark Maske, Ken Denlinger, Matt Rennie, Jon DeNunzio, Kathy Orton, Camille Powell, Dan Steinberg ( cheap-shot artist that he is), Chris Ryan, Harry Kanterian, Jim Brady, Jim Rome, Travis Rodgers, Jason Stewart, Mike Purkey, Bob Edwards, Tom and Jane Goldman, Bruce Auster, Jim Wildman, Mike Gastineau, Mary Bromley, Kenny and Christina Lewis, Dick (Hoops) and Joanie (Mrs. Hoops) Weiss, Jim O'Connell, Bob Ryan, Frank Hannigan, Mary Lopuszynski, Jerry Tarde, Mike O'Malley, Larry Dorman, Jeff D'Alessio, Marsha Edwards, Jay and Natalie Edwards, Len and Gwyn Edwards-Dieterle, Chris Edwards and John Cutcher, Aunt Joan, Andy North, Neil Oxman, Bill Leahey, Dennis Satyshur, Steve Bisciotti, Kevin Byrne, Dick Cass, Mike Muehr, Bob Low, Joe Durant, John Cook, Brian Henninger, and Paul Goydos, who provided the second-best golf story of 2008.

Thanks as always to Mark Russell, Laura Russell, and Alex Russell (my favorite Republican family); Steve Rintoul, Jon Brendle, and the immortal Slugger White.

Basketball people: Gary Williams, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Barnes, Mike Brey, Jeff Jones, Billy Lange, Karl Hobbs, Phil Martelli, Fran Dunphy, Jim Calhoun - whose appearance at the 2008 Bruce Edwards golf outing was nothing short of heroic - Jim Boeheim, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino, Thad Matta, Tom Brennan, Tommy Amaker, Dave Odom, Jim Larranaga, Mack McCarthy, Jim Crews, Pat Flannery, Emmette Davis, Ralph Willard, David Stern, and Tim Frank. Frank Sullivan should still be coaching. Thanks one more time to the ortho-pods who keep me running, Eddie McDevitt, Bob Arciero, Gus Mazzocca, and Dean Taylor, and to my personal trainer (he'd deny it vehemently), Tim Kelly.

Not to mention, except I always like to mention them, Howard Garfinkel and Tom Konchalski - the Damon Runyon and Abe Lincoln of hoops.

Swimmers, as I attempt yet another comeback: Jeff Roddin, Jason Crist, Clay F. Britt, Wally Dicks, Mike Fell, Mark Pugliese, Erik (Dr. Post) Osborne, John Craig, Doug Chestnut, Peter Ward, Penny Bates, Carole Kammel, Magot Pettijohn, Tom Denes, A. J. Block, Danny Pick, Paul Doremus, Bob Hansen, and Mary Dowling.

The China DollShanghai Village Gang: Aubre Jones, Rob Ades, Jack Kvancz, Joe McKeown (in absentia), Stanley Copeland, Reid Collins, Arnie Heft, Bob Campbell, Pete Dowling, Chris (the last Republican) Wallace, Herman (duck for everyone!) Greenberg, Joe Greenberg, Harry Huang, George Solomon, Ric McPherson, Geoff Kaplan, and Murray Lieberman. Red, Zang, and Hymie are always there.

The Rio Gang: Tate Armstrong, Mark Alarie, Clay (LB) Buckley, and Terri Chili.

The Feinstein Advisory Board: Drummer, Frank Mastrandrea, Wes Seeley, Dave Kindred, and Bill Brill, who thinks that Duke football revival is going to happen any minute now.

Last - not even close to least: Danny, Brigid, Bobby, and Jennifer, Margaret and David, Marcia, Ethan and Ben, Matthew and Brian, and the world's most patient human, Chris.

It can't possibly take this many people to get a book written and to keep me up and running. Except it does, and I continue to understand how fortunate I am.

JOHN FEINSTEIN is the bestselling author of Living on the Black,Tales from Q School, Last Dance, Next Man Up, Let Me Tell You a Story Living on the Black,Tales from Q School, Last Dance, Next Man Up, Let Me Tell You a Story (with Red Auerbach), (with Red Auerbach), Caddy for Life, Open, The Punch, The Last Amateurs, The Majors, A Good Walk Spoiled, A Civil War, A Season on the Brink, Play Ball, Hard Courts, Caddy for Life, Open, The Punch, The Last Amateurs, The Majors, A Good Walk Spoiled, A Civil War, A Season on the Brink, Play Ball, Hard Courts, and three sports mystery novels for young readers. He writes for the and three sports mystery novels for young readers. He writes for the Washington Post, Washington Post, Washingtonpost.com, and Golf Digest, Golf Digest, and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's and is a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Morning Edition.

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