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Here comes Rocco

Mediate is among a talented field that also features defending champion Roberts and Player of the Year Lehman.

March 08, 2013|By Steve Virgen
  • Rocco Mediate leaves the 18th green after losing to Tiger Woods in an 18-hole playoff plus one sudden-death hole during the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.
Rocco Mediate leaves the 18th green after losing to Tiger… (Gina Ferazzi, Los…)

It was the type of a tournament that could change a career, define a player.

The 2008 U.S. Open stabilized Tiger Woods as an icon. The Open made Rocco Mediate everyone's favorite underdog.

Mediate is well aware the tournament was a unique experience. He went on to write a book about the epic event with John Feinstein, entitled, "Are You Kidding Me?"

The appropriate title described the wild tournament and amazing playoff between Tiger and Rocco.

Mediate has had plenty of time to think about, "What if," yet instead he just plays on for the next tournament, the next hole.

These days, the 50-year-old is now on the Champions Tour. He won in his debut Feb. 8.

He'll be looking to win again when he comes to Newport Beach for the 19th annual Toshiba Classic, March 11 to 17, the final three days reserved for the rounds of the tournament.

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Mediate comes in a talented field that features defending champion Loren Roberts, Tom Lehman, Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer among others. Lehman is the Champions Tour back-to-back Player of the Year.

So much for being the new kid on the block for Mediate. This "rookie" won the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound, Boca Raton, Fla.

Mediate's final round ended with a birdie on 18 and he finished with a one-under-par 71. He shot a 17-under 199 for the tournament and became the 16th player to have a winning debut on the Champions tour.

He matched the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who also won in their Champions Tour debut.

Mediate's second round definitely helped his victory. He shot a course-record 61 in the second round.

"This means as much to me as anything I've done," Mediate told reporters after the win.

The Allianz Championship was the second event of the year on the Champions Tour.

John Cook, who owns a home in Corona del Mar, won the first event, at Hualalai on Jan 18.

Langer, the 2008 Toshiba Classic champion, won the ACE Group Classic at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla., on Feb. 15.

Roberts, who won his 13th event on the Champions Tour, knows it will be a huge challenge to become the first champion to repeat at the Toshiba Classic. Every tournament has become tight on the Champions Tour.

"My feeling about this tour is that it has gone from an exhibition tour to a competitive tour," said Roberts, who won last year's Toshiba Classic by two strokes with an eight-under-par 205. "It really has."

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