Hate to be Rude: Rocco being Rocco

Rocco Mediate has fond memories of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He finished second to Tiger Woods.

Rocco Mediate has fond memories of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He finished second to Tiger Woods.

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SAN DIEGO – Rocco Mediate was holding a microphone in the Farmers Insurance Open media center. That usually means more comic monologue than golf interview. The good news was the entertainment came free of charge. No cover.

photo

Rocco Mediate jokes with Tiger Woods following Woods' 2008 U.S. Open victory at Torrey Pines.

Mediate was in a particularly good mood Tuesday because he’s back at Torrey Pines for the first time since his dramatic 2008 U.S. Open playoff loss to Tiger Woods. Memories flooded back, well-wishers sounded off. What’s more, his 47-year-old body is in shape and he feels his often-inconsistent putting stroke is on track, thanks to some setup advice from the latest hot guru, Dave Stockton.

On top of all that, his Q-rating is up. Mediate appeared on the Jan. 21 episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

“I played myself, so now I’m typecast,” he cracked. “I can’t get another acting job now.”

Mediate didn’t play here last year because of a torn meniscus that required knee surgery. Now he’s optimistic because he has improved his body through an extensive exercise regimen in the offseason. He lost 30-35 pounds after having done an hour of cardio almost every day over 40 days. That equates to five notches on the belt.

“I do things that way,” he said. “I don’t like to wait.”

He gained weight over the past couple of years because he couldn’t work out. Considering how much he likes to eat, he said, “I’m surprised I didn’t gain twice as much as I did.”

This has happened before. Mediate may lead the Tour in weight fluctuations. “I’m like the Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo,” he said.

Here’s more of the latest version of the Best of Roc:

– On whether he thinks Woods, with 14 major victories, will surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18: “This may not go over well, but if he fixes his golf swing, yes, I do. If he doesn’t, he still probably will, but it’s going to be harder. But if he makes a few little changes in his swing, where that club is more up and down instead of sideways, then it’s over. . . . Give me 15 minutes with him and it’s over. (Ben) Hogan wanted the elbows down, not sideways.”

(Given that Woods has won 51 percent of his PGA Tour starts since July 2006, that loud sound you just heard was steam pouring out of the head of Hank Haney, Woods’ coach.)

– On Woods’ sabbatical and eventual return: “Whatever the problem he has is . . . he’ll fix it. I can assure you of one thing: If it’s broke, he’ll fix it. . . . I don’t think he’s going to be vulnerable when he comes back. He’s still the No. 1 guy; it’s not available. As long as he’s breathing, it’s not available.”

– On how he knew Woods would make that bouncy 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole of the ’08 Open, forcing the playoff: “If he was pitching out of a lake, I’d think he’d make it.”

– On whether he thinks his duel with Woods was one of the best shows in golf history: “I’ve been told that 1,000 times. It’s still hard to believe it happened.”

– On his exchange with the maintenance crew members who saw him wearing a T-shirt and shorts at the ’09 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black: “They said, ‘Hey, Roc, you look like one of us.’ I said, ‘I am. I just play better golf.’ ”

– On signing autographs: “The only time you have to worry about autographs is when they stop asking. As long as they have ink, I’ll sign.”

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Phil Mickelson celebrates after winning the 2004 Masters.

Phil Mickelson makes his 2010 PGA Tour debut this week at the Farmers Insurance Open. I’m thinking golf has never been so happy to see him.

Yes, I’m counting that 3-inch jump he made on the 18th green at the 2004 Masters.

California natives have won 12 of the past 14 Tour events at Torrey Pines, counting the 2008 U.S. Open. But that doesn’t necessarily mean much this week. Two reasons: Woods, who has won seven of those, isn’t playing for obvious reasons. And Mickelson hasn’t won here since the 2001 Rees Jones redesign.

• Woods isn’t here in person, but he is in punch-line form. Comedian Jay Leno opened his act at the tournament’s charity gala the other night with, “I’m exhausted. I just finished a foursome with Tiger Woods.”

• Q-School medalist Troy Merritt, a rookie, shared the first-round lead at his first Tour event, the Sony Open. But on the third hole one day, he noticed that the standard bearer had his name as “Merrick,” and in John Merrick.

That’s all right. They spelled his name right on the check. And, besides, Merritt is used to not getting respect.

“I’ve always been the underdog,” said the man who played golf at Winona State and Boise State. “I don’t get the respect that guys who have won fewer tournaments do. But I don’t mind flying under the radar.”

• Everybody seems to have an opinion on the effect of the new grooves. Here’s veteran Greg Kraft’s unconventional wisdom:

“I had a harder time knowing whether the ball was going to fly with the old square grooves. It was, ‘Will it?’ or ‘Won’t it?’ Before sometimes it wouldn’t fly. Now you know it’s going to fly. The secret is judging how far. I know how far because I’m 45 and have played V grooves forever. It’s easier to gauge a flyer. I’m not saying it’s easier to control. I’m just saying you won’t see me 30 yards over the green saying, ‘What just happened here?’ ”

• Bob Hope Classic runner-up Tim Clark now has finished second eight times on the PGA Tour. That’s the most for any active player without a victory, three more than Brett Quigley and four more than Briny Baird, Harrison Frazar, Skip Kendall and Bubba Watson.

Here’s the high and low of the matter: Clark might not like label of Best of the Bridesmaids, but the title pays well.

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