Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open—while playing on a broken leg, no less—but you’d never know it based on the amount of attention Rocco Mediate received in the days, weeks, and months followings their epic dual at Torrey Pines.
The guy that Johnny Miller referred to as “Tiger Woods’ pool boy” became America’s lovable loser.
Mediate appeared on The Tonight Show , The Late Show , was asked to participate in the 2008 Skins Game, and renowned sportswriter John Feinstein even wrote a book about him.
His appearance fee doubled and his contract with Callaway immediately jumped from $300,000 to $500,000 per year.
Mediate’s engaging personality had always made him a sort of cult favorite among hardcore golf fans, but this level of fame and fortune was something completely new to the 47-year-old journeyman.
For Mediate, life was certainly good in 2008.
However, the position he now finds himself in is a painful reminder that, although he captured the hearts and minds of a nation, he was not the one that left Torrey Pines with US Open Trophy in hand last year.
Rocco is currently 151st on the PGA Tour’s money list and is hoping to play well in the final three fall series events in order to keep at least conditional status for the 2010 season.
The top 125 on the tour’s money list automatically retain their tour cards for the following year.
Those who fall between 126 and 150 on the money list are given conditional status and are able to play through the grace of sponsors exemptions.
Rocco being Rocco, he will have no trouble receiving sponsors exemptions in 2010. But he first needs to finish inside of the top 150; otherwise, he will be the most popular player at the PGA Tour’s 2009 Qualifying School.
This type of situation is nothing new to him.
In 2004, he finished 176th on the money list. In 2005, he finished 114th. In 2006, he finished 206th, and in 2007 he finished 82nd.
He had to rely on major medical extensions (due to a recurring back injury) and a career earnings exemption in order to keep his tour card through these difficult years.
Mediate is off to a solid start, though, in his final push to retain his 2010 playing privileges.
At the Frys.com Open, which is being held this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., Mediate has opened with rounds of 67 and 66 and is currently tied for 11th at the halfway point.
A top-25 finish this week followed by halfway decent finishes in each of the final two fall series events should ensure that golf fans will get at least one more year of the lovable, fast-talking Rocco.
In an era when PGA Tour golfers can at times appear to be a large group of quite emotionless clones, Mediate provides fans with a much-needed alternative.