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Showdown On The Green: When Tiger Met Rocco

In his new book Are You Kidding Me? journalist John Feinstein chronicles the dramatic showdown that occured at the 2008 U.S. Open when Rocco Mediate, a pro-golfer with a ranking of 158th, challenged Tiger Woods to a sudden-death playoff.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on May 27, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 27, 2009: Interview with John Fienstein; Interview with Rocco Mediate; Interview with John Powers.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Showdown on the Green: When Tiger Met Rocco


This is FRESH AIR. Terry Gross is under the weather today. I’m Dave Davies,
senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, filling in for her.

Last June, millions of people who know and care nothing about golf were
mesmerized by the final round battle at the US Open, played at the Torrey Pines
golf course in San Diego. The world’s best, Tiger Woods, was playing with a
torn knee ligament that inflicted such pain that he cried out in agony and bent
over after several swings.

But just as compelling a figure was Woods’ adversary: a paunchy 45 year old
journeyman from the tour, with a regular guy look and the unlikely name of
Rocco Mediate. It was a script that could have been written in Hollywood. Woods
had won 13 major tournaments. Mediate, though a respectable golfer when
healthy, had none. Woods was trim and muscular. Mediate looked like the guy
next door.

Woods walked the course in resolute silence. Mediate grinned and chattered
incessantly. Mediate battled Woods to a draw, setting up an 18-hole playoff the
following day. Woods eventually prevailed, and my guest, John Feinstein, says
the match was so intensely followed, that trading on Wall Street plummeted
during its final two hours.

Mediate has joined with Feinstein to write a memoir and account of the battle
called “Are You Kidding Me?” A little later, we’ll speak with Rocco Mediate.
First, John Feinstein. He’s a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION, and the
author of more than a dozen sports books, as well as three sports mystery

novels for young readers. He also writes for the Washington Post and Golf

Well, John Feinstein, welcome to FRESH AIR. This book is about this epic battle
between Tiger Woods, the best golfer anybody’s ever seen, and this wonderful,
affable 45 year old Rocco Mediate, who, when this tournament began, was, I
think you write, the 158th ranked player in the world. When this tournament
began, was he even on your radar?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, “Are You Kidding Me?”): I don’t think he was on
anybody’s radar except his own, Dave. I think that the great thing about golf
is that stories like this do happen on occasion. And in Rocco’s case, he was
someone who had been a good player, not a great player, but a good player, when
healthy. And those two words were kind of the key to his career and to his

He’d had back problems dating back to the early 1990s: he’d had back surgery in
1994. He’d had issues with the back on and off ever since then and had finally
felt healthy for about a year leading into this open. But he still had to go
through a qualifier, just to get to play. Each year at the US Open, there are
only about 60 to 70 players who are exempt into the tournament.

In other words, Tiger Woods doesn’t have to qualify, he just shows up and
plays. But most players among the 156 who are in the field on the first day
have to go through these qualifiers. And Rocco, because his ranking in the
world was 158th, as you mentioned, had to actually play in a 36 hole qualifier.
I think there were 23 spots available at this particular qualifier, and there
were 139 players. And they had to play 36 holes in one day.

At the end of the 36 holes, Rocco was in an 11-way tie for 17th place, which
meant that those 11 players had to go off and play sudden death for the final
six spots in the field - first player to make a birdie or one of the first six
players to make a birdie would qualify. You make a bogey, you’re probably out.
And Rocco, fortunately, as the sun was setting, because it’s a long day at
those qualifiers, made a birdie at the first of the playoff holes.

He was the only one of the 11 players to make a birdie, and thus qualified to
get to play. That got him into the Open.

DAVIES: And when we – remind us of birdie and bogey, just for golf newcomers.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: For those who aren’t familiar with golf, each hole is assigned a
par, depending on its length. It’s either a par three, a par four, or a par
five. If you score underneath the par score, that’s called a birdie. If you’re
two shots under the par score, it’s an eagle. If you score one shot over
whatever the par number is, it’s a bogey. And if you’re two over, it’s a double
bogey, and three over, a triple bogey, and so on.

DAVIES: Now, you write about Tiger Woods. Everybody knows he’s, you know,
unmatched, alone and apart among golfers. Talk a little bit about what he was
like when he first appeared, and in particular, his relationship with other
players and with the media, the kind of posture he struck.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, when Tiger first came on tour, late in 1996, there was
almost a Tiger zone, that very few people entered, whether he was in the locker
room or on the driving range, or anywhere at a golf tournament. The only people
who regularly entered that zone were his agents, his family, his swing coach,
his caddy, and maybe one or two other close friends. And most of the other
players on tour were either intimidated by him, because he was such a big star
when he arrived on tour, or jealous of him, because he was such a big star when
he arrived on tour.

And he was a 20 year old kid who, as great as his golf was, was still learning
his way on the tour, the way anybody in a new job has to learn their way. One
of the few people who was not either jealous or intimidated by Tiger Woods was
Rocco Mediate.

Rocco remembered when he first came on tour – now he wasn’t a star by any means
when he came on tour - but he remembered older players, like Tom Weiskopf and
Raymond Floyd and Curtis Strange, who sort of reached out to him and said, look
kid, this is how you do it, this is how you don’t do it, because he didn’t

DAVIES: And what did he tell him? What was something that Tiger needed to

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, what Tiger needed to learn, for one thing, was how to
communicate with the other pros, because he really didn’t know how. He had

lived in this cocoon of stardom from the time he was a teenager. He won the US
Junior Championship when he was 15 years old, youngest player in history to do
it. He won a US Amateur when he was 18 years old, youngest player in history to
do it. He’d gone to Stanford for two years. So he had some sense of how to
socialize in college, but not how to socialize in a locker room with other guys
who were his peers or his elders.

And Rocco was one of the guys who said, look, this is what we do. He kind of
helped him assimilate into the PGA Tour, which wasn’t as easy as you might
think it would be for someone who’s such a big star.

DAVIES: Just describe them, kind of physically - what their presence is like on
the golf course, how they’re different.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, Tiger looks like he was born to play some kind of sport.
He’s tall and he’s lean - he’s about 6’2”, which is very tall for a golfer -
most of the great golfers in history have been under six feet tall. Tiger’s

about 6’2”, he’s in great shape, he works out all the time. He’s gotten bigger
through the years, physically. He used to be much more lean and wiry, but he’s
bulked himself up through the years.

And there’s just not an ounce of fat on him. He looks like he could walk or run
from California to New York and not be breathing hard. And again, his demeanor
is always very stern. You’ll see him smile when he hits a great shot. You might
see him smile when he gets lucky, he’ll get this sheepish grin on his face. But
for the most part, he’s very stone faced throughout a round of golf.

Rocco looks like a guy you might meet on the first tee on Saturday morning at
your local municipal golf course. He was once very heavy. He’s no longer very
heavy because he lost a lot of weight after his back surgery, during his rehab.
He went from about 5’11” 250 to 5’11” 210 now. So he’s in good enough shape,
certainly, to play golf. But he always looks a little bit rumpled, even though
he wears, you know, very nice clothing on the golf course.

And he never stops talking, never stops smiling throughout a round of golf. He
may roll his eyes every once in a while when he hits a bad shot, but for the
most part, he looks like he’s having a good time, and looks like the kind of
guy you’d love to play 18 holes with and then go have a beer.

DAVIES: So when this open begins, and Tiger, everybody knows, is the man to
beat, even though he’d had knee problems coming in, and people weren’t sure
about that. And Rocco is a guy people know, but aren’t expecting much from,
being the 158th ranked player in the world - comes in and he’s, what, leading
after the first round and…

Mr. FEINSTEIN: No, he was actually, he was in third place.


Mr. FEINSTEIN: He’s one shot out of the lead.

DAVIES: In the mix - but then after round two, he was still in the mix, right?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Right, he was in second place at that point.

DAVIES: All right, just talk a little bit about kind of how you, in the media,
what he was like, kind of what that felt like as you talked to him about what
that was…

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, everybody is very happy in the media when a guy like Rocco
is on the leader board because you want an excuse to talk to someone like him,
because he’s what’s known as a good talker. He’s a storyteller, he has a sense
of humor, he enjoys spending time with the media. Most players at best tolerate
the media. Rocco enjoys the media. When they say to Rocco, you’re wanted in the
interview room, he’s happy about it.

Most guys are like, oh, God, where is it? Do I have to – how far do I have to
traipse to get there? Things like that. So when Rocco was in contention, it
gave everybody - at the very least, first couple of days - I think Rocco was
probably everybody’s sidebar. The lead was still going to be: how was Tiger
Woods doing? What was the match up like with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson
paying together in the first two rounds, which had never been done before - the
two top players in the world being paired in the same threesome, and the
leaders themselves. So I think the first two days, Rocco was kind of a good
sidebar for everybody, a guy who’d battled injuries, who’d had to qualify to
get in, who had good stories to tell. But I don’t think anybody was expecting
that late Sunday afternoon he was still going to be the story.

DAVIES: We’re speaking with John Feinstein. His book with Rocco Mediate about
the 2008 US Open is called, “Are You Kidding Me?” We’ll talk more after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of Music)

DAVIES: If you’re just joining us, we’re speaking with veteran sports writer
John Feinstein. His new book with Rocco Mediate, about Rocco’s battle with
Tiger Woods at the 2008 US Open, is called “Are You Kidding Me?”

After three rounds of the tournament, there’s of course four rounds, and the
third round finishes on Saturday. Tiger was ahead by a stroke, is that right?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Correct.

DAVIES: Right. What’s his record when he enters the last day of a major ahead
by a stroke?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: 14 and 0, when he is in the lead. He has never lost the lead at
a major championship, and that’s a stat that, you know, crops up obviously
whenever he leads. He rolled in a very long putt, an eagle putt, which is two
under par on a hole, at the 18th hole, he made a three on a par five hole, and
that jumped him over Lee Westwood, who was in second place at the time. Rocco
was two shots back.

DAVIES: And that was on the third round, on Saturday, right?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: This is at the end of the third round, into the lead. And the
first thing the announcers on NBC, Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller said, Tiger
Woods, 13 and 0, has never lost the lead in a major championship and he will
take the lead into the final round of tomorrow’s US Open.

DAVIES: So there we are that Sunday. And you’ve got Tiger Woods, the best in
the world, and Rocco Mediate. And everybody knows that nobody beats Tiger when
he has the lead. Give us a feel for what people saw that day. What was Rocco
like? How did he behave, how did he win people’s hearts?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, I think it was a two day process of Rocco winning people’s
hearts. Again, you go into Sunday, as you said, Tiger Woods is leading. So most
people expect he’s going to win. In fact, people were probably expecting he’d
win by three or four, because he had played progressively better Thursday,
Friday, Saturday. And Lee Westwood, who’s a very good player from Europe, who’d
never won a major, was chasing him. Rocco was chasing him. Couple others were a
few shots further back, but really not within hailing distance.

And what happened that day was Tiger, who struggled all week on the first hole
at Torrey Pines, which was the club where they were playing, made a double
bogey on the first hole. And all of a sudden he brings everybody back into the
tournament. Everybody looks up and says, huh. Maybe he’s human today. Maybe we
have a chance. Rocco birdied the second hole.

So within two holes, he had actually passed Tiger, as had Lee Westwood, and
then it became this three-way battle. And it came down to Tiger having a 12
foot putt, which is far from automatic, that he had to make for birdie, to tie
Rocco and create the playoff. And by now, the way it is – if there were 50
cameras, I’m making up that number, 25 of them were watching Tiger putt and 25
of them were watching Rocco watching Tiger putt.

And the putt, if you watch it on a replay, Dave, literally went in the hole by
an inch. It just skirted the edge of the cup, went around to the back of the
cup, and dropped in. And Tiger had one of his reactions that we’ve all seen
where he went completely crazy when the putt went in. And there were Tiger
Woods and Rocco Mediate heading to an 18 hole playoff on Monday to decide the
US Open.

DAVIES: And on Monday, I mean, it’s – it was an amazing story on Monday. I
mean, Rocco ends up three strokes behind Tiger in the middle, manages to come
back and actually take a lead, but then lose eventually. Tiger ties him on the
last hole, they go to a one hole playoff, and Rocco loses the tournament.

But it seems to me that he did something that day that no golfer before,
including the top ranked players in the world had done, which is to catch Tiger
on the last day, when Tiger had a lead. And really give him a run. Why do you
think Rocco was able to do this, when nobody else could?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well again, I think it gets back to the fact that he’s never
been intimidated by Tiger, the way so many players are. As I said, they walk on
the first tee, he gives them that glare, they know he’s not going to talk to
them, they know how good he is. And most of them melt. And Rocco’s attitude
was: I’m not going to let that happen.

On the first tee - excuse me, on the practice tee that day, Rocco was wearing a
red shirt. If you follow golf, you know Tiger always wears red on Sunday.
That’s his Sunday color, for winning a tournament. And Rocco woke up Monday
morning, he hadn’t expected to be playing a fifth day. The only clean shirt he
had was red. And he said, I had a choice. I could wear a red shirt, a dirty
shirt, or no shirt. I opted for the red one.

And he walked out onto the practice tee to warm up, and Tiger came over,
wearing a red shirt, and said - and Tiger uses profanity, the way most athletes
do in the locker room or in their jock world - and said, nice blanking shirt,
to Rocco. And Rocco’s response was, hey, it’s not Sunday. Sunday’s your – your
color is red on Sundays. Like, look, I’m not backing down from you. And they
were both laughing when they said it. But I think that set a tone for the day.

And right from the beginning, it was clear that Rocco was not going to be
intimidated. He wasn’t going to roll over. Even when he was, as you mentioned,
three shots down after ten holes, there was still a sense that it wasn’t over.
And Rocco turned it around with three straight birdies, which is extraordinary
under those circumstances. Tiger called it one of the great hat-tricks he’s
ever seen. That’s usually a hockey term.

And as you said, had a one shot lead again, coming to 18, and again, because of
the difference in length off the tee, Tiger was able to make a birdie, Rocco
made a par, and that set up the sudden death where Tiger won.

DAVIES: What effect do you think the experience had on Rocco? I mean, he’d been
on the tour for 24 years, people called him the everyman. But suddenly he was
at a new level of celebrity. How did it affect him?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well I think the first thing he had to do was remind people that
he didn’t win, because the way people reacted to him, you would have thought
that he had won. The fact that, again, that he wasn’t intimidated by Tiger and
took him 91 holes, and had chances to win both on Sunday and Monday. And he was
treated almost as if he had won the tournament. And he had to remind people:
look, I’m proud of the way I played, it was a remarkable weekend, but Tiger
still won.

I think that it reinforced the notion that people had had for a long time,
people who follow golf, that this is a good guy who, when healthy, is a very
good player.

DAVIES: You know, he is such a unique personality, and he’s unique on the golf
course. I mean, he chatters constantly while most pros sort of maintain this
focused silence as they move through a round. And I wonder, do you think that
kind of, sort of down to Earth, I don’t take myself too seriously, outlook he
has is a secret to his success on the course?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I think in a way it is. And friends of his from boyhood talk
about the fact that Rocco is always at his best when he has no hope. You know,
this is a guy who was not a very good player in high school, who was recruited
by no colleges to play golf. Recruited the team that he played on, Florida
Southern, he walked on the team, just talked his way onto the team when he got
down to Florida Southern. And Rocco is a guy who just, he never seems to get
down on himself or on the circumstance.

And that’s what’s kept him on tour through all these injuries, for all these
years. There are a lot of players who, having gone through the back problems -
and anybody who’s ever had a back problem knows how painful and difficult they
can be - would have just walked away by now, and said I don’t want to go
through the rehab again. I don’t want to deal with the pain. I can’t play. I
can’t hit a ball more than 100 yards, which has happened to him during his

But Rocco has always, you know, kept his attitude: I’m going to find a way, I
know I can do it. He’s never lost his sense of humor, I think. One of the
stories that’s testimony to that is, he literally fell flat on his face one
morning at Los Angeles Country Club, getting out of his car, his back just went
on him, and he went down. And he was lying there, and his friends were inside
the clubhouse waiting for him, and he took out his cell phone to call them and
say, come and help me.

And he remembered that you’re not allowed to speak on a cell phone in the
parking lot at Los Angeles Country Club.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEINSTEIN: So lying there on his stomach, he texted his friends and said:
fell down, can’t get up, come get me. And of course, he told the story on
himself after it happened, as an example of, you know, what happens when your
back goes. But I think that shows you that Rocco always finds a way, and never
loses his sense of humor about things.

DAVIES: John Feinstein, thanks so much.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Dave.

DAVIES: John Feinstein is a regular contributor to MORNING EDITION who also
writes for the Washington Post and Golf Digest. His book with Rocco Mediate is
called “Are You Kidding Me?” We’ll speak with Mediate in the second half of the
show. I’m Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of Music)
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
The Journeyman Golfer Who Took On Tiger


DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies sitting in for Terry Gross.

My guest is Rocco Mediate, a professional golfer who captured the hearts of
millions of non-golf fans last June when he battled the great Tiger Woods to a
thrilling finish at the U.S. Open. Mediate was appealing not just because no
one gave him a chance to win, but because he's a likeable every man, a 45 year-
old with a paunch and a winning smile who gave the champ the greatest battle of
his career.

Rocco Mediate has written a memoir and account of the historic U.S. Open with
sports journalist John Feinstein. It’s called “Are You Kidding Me.”

Well, Rocco Mediate, welcome to FRESH AIR.

You played sports a lot as a kid, I know.

Mr. ROCCO MEDIATE (Professional Golfer): Right. Right.

DAVIES: Why did you end up with golf?

Mr. MEDIATE: Well, I played baseball, I think, you know, back in the what –
‘70s? And all my buddies – we had a neighborhood with like 10 – 12 kids about
the same age. So we had a great time and we all played in the same league. So
they all played - we all played together, then they kind of quit playing and
played golf. So I decided to give golf a shot and we’re still here – ‘cause I
didn’t have – you know, the baseball was over and I didn’t want to play in high
school – I wasn’t good enough to play in high school. So who knew?

DAVIES: I want to talk a little bit about what it’s like when you’re out there,
you know, playing on the tour. And of course, you have a partner, the caddy.
And he carries the clubs and rakes the sand traps, but he’s much more than
that. What does a good caddy do?

Mr. MEDIATE: Oh yeah. Well, it depends on who you are. Some guys just like them
to carry the bags, give them numbers – your yardages from where you are to the
hole. Stuff like that. I like Matthew who caddies for me. All my cadies over 24
years I've been on this tour, I've had maybe five different guys, which isn't a
lot, actually. I like them to be involved, and I like to talk, and I like to,
you know, it's just… I'm only concentrating for about you know four or five
seconds over each shot, so it’s not like I have a lot to do, so I like to keep
busy. They do everything. I mean they keep you calm. The good ones keep you
calm and the good ones tell you to, if you’re complaining and whining and oh
this is not right and this can't happen to me, you know - which we all do. He
kind of puts you back in your place. He should. I mean a good one isn't you
know, one thing, Pete Bender(ph), who caddied for me for years… He caddied for
Norman, and Watkins, and now he's caddying for Bad, Aaron Baddeley. You know,
Pete never let me get away with childish things because he's seen them all. So
he got in my face and it’s good. One thing he said is you should never be
afraid, as a caddy, to be fired.

DAVIES: Uh-huh.

Mr. MEDIATE: A lot of guys are.

DAVIES: And what kind of childish things would he call you on?

Mr. MEDIATE: Well you know what I mean, it's just like you know, that's a bad
break or that ball should've went here, blah, blah, blah. You know it's just,
you just, I vent everything. I don't keep anything inside me. It all comes out.
And you know, it may sound negative, but negativity in my mind fuels me, I
guess you could say. It's like I always try to prove myself wrong when I say
something like, oh my god I can't believe I did that or I shouldn’t be here or
this is ridiculous, stuff like that. We all do it, whether it’s inside –
internal, or I say it. And you know Matthew's done a good job so far of keeping
me where I need to be.

DAVIES: Now the other thing that happens, of course, in a golf tournament is
that you’re playing with other guys - two or three, depending on the day of the

Mr. MEDIATE: Mm-hmm. Right.

DAVIES: And you both hit, or three of you hit, and then you walk down the
fairway, which means you've got a lot of time to talk if you want to, but a lot
of players don’t.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: Is that because they're concentrating or because they want to psych you
out? What's going on there?

Mr. MEDIATE: No there's - the psyching out part doesn't really, as far as I'm
concerned there's nothing that can psych me out except for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. MEDIATE: You know no one else can affect anything that I do nobody. So and
that's how it should be. There's nothing that can stop me from doing what I
want to do on the golf course, unless me - unless I do it myself. But you know
I talk a lot going down. I'll talk to fans, I’ll talk to Matthew, I'll talk to
the players, depends on who you're playing with.


Mr. MEDIATE: I'm not going to get in there and bother people just because, I
don't do that. I don’t change my game for anybody, but or change the way I play
for anybody. But if I can tell people don't want to talk I don't bother with
the guys I'm playing with as far as talking. But you know, the caddies always
talk a lot and, you know, I keep busy. But some guys just don't.

DAVIES: Yes. I noticed that...

Mr. MEDIATE: Don't say anything.

DAVIES: Right. I mean people can see you walking down the fairway just
chattering away. And what are you talking about? Are you talking about the
weather? You're talking about where you’re going to have dinner?

Mr. MEDIATE: Well who knows? All of that stuff. Whether dinner, what did you do
last night, Matthew? You know what; you’re just trying to figure something out.
Talk about how you’re feeling you know, what you felt. You know I talk about
the shot sometimes or the club I hit or whatever, just the breaks and stuff
like that. But there's nothing, it's really not rocket science out there. If
people knew what we really talked about sometimes they'd be shocked.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: You had, by any measure, a successful, you know, career on the pro
tour, but at times you have really struggled with back problems.

Mr. MEDIATE: Oh boy. Yes. I have.

DAVIES: Describe a couple of the really tough moments there for us. I mean like
in July of 2007, I mean just a year before you, the famous U.S. Open you...

Mr. MEDIATE: Yes. I all started in 94, 93 actually. The end of 93 I had a disc
blown, my L1-2 disc. Oh actually, excuse me, L2-3. I kind of fractured,
herniated and went crazy and I had surgery in 94 and I didn't know if I’d ever
play again. Went through rehab, blah, blah, blah, I came back out, got my card,
I still had my card but I had to go do something crazy to get it back. I did
and, then it was good for five or five years. And then it, you know the mid-
2000s like three, four, and five I was...

DAVIES: And when you say get your card, you mean the card the last...

Mr. MEDIATE: Oh yes I'm sorry yes. Yes, the player's card.

DAVIES: (unintelligible) for the tour?

Mr. MEDIATE: Yes I mean that's what we call it. It's just your privilege is

DAVIES: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MEDIATE: If you don't finish in the top 125 you’re out. You got to go back
to tour school which is a six round tournament. You play, they play every year.
They take 30, 25 guys I think now, something like that. Twenty-five guys out of
a couple hundred that get to play next year. So it's a great job if you can get
it, but it's a tough interview because you get interviewed every year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MEDIATE: You have to play good or you're gone. So and I love that part
about my sport. But, so you know it was really bad there in the mid-2000 I
guess you would say. I had a great, pretty good year and I think my best year
was 02 I believe. I'm not exactly sure. Then 03 was okay, then 04, 5, and 6 I
was in bad shape. My back went crazy and I couldn't play much and when I did I
was terrible and the Masters in 06 is when it really went sideways and it blew
out on the back nine and it was Sunday. I had the lead going into… Well I think
I was one out of lead or tied for lead going to the back and I almost couldn't
finish - and that was pretty bad. And then 2007 is when I met Cindy, Cindy
Helfman(ph), who's a physical therapist and she fixed me.

DAVIES: Rocco Mediate's book with John Feinstein is called "Are You Kidding
Me?" More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: My guest is pro golfer Rocco Mediate who's historic battle with Tiger
Woods at last year's U.S. Open is chronicled in his book with John Feinstein
called "Are You Kidding Me?"

So the tournament's four days.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: Around Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And after days Tiger has
finally taken the lead by, I think, one stroke, right?

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: And his record in major tournaments where he has led going into the
last day - 13 times he started the last day leading and has won all 13 times.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right. Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: So people tend to kind of think it’s over then. Now, the interesting
thing that it's hard when I look back at this to remember that you and Tiger
were not actually playing together on that last day. He was...

Mr. MEDIATE: No. He was behind me.

DAVIES: You were in the group in front of him is that right?

Mr. MEDIATE: Mm-hmm. Right.

DAVIES: But talk a little bit about what it's like to play around Tiger on the
last day of a big tournament? Are there certain, are there special

Mr. MEDIATE: Not very - no. The only distractions I have are the ones I create.
The people, I love. I love the noise. I love the encloseness(ph). I like the
people on the T. I like all that stuff. I like that excitement. It's, I wish I
could do it every week but I can't.

DAVIES: You mean the thousands of people who there to see Tiger and...

Mr. MEDIATE: The thousands of people and right. Well they're there to see all
of us, really...


Mr. MEDIATE: ... especially on the last day. And they want to see him go. They
want to see you know like you said, he won 13 in a row but there's always a
first time for everything and that's what I was thinking. I mean I want to
knock this guy off somehow. I know I can. I'm playing good enough to do it
because it's an open course. I know what's going to win and I knew if I was par
or better by the end of the week that I was probably going to win, and
unfortunately it was a tie. But I knew what I had to do and I knew what you
know, he still has to do it too. It's not as easy. Just because he's who he is
he still has to perform, which he does, he'd done better than anybody that ever
played. So it's no different to me when he's in the field or not. I’d rather
have that challenge and say that I beat the best when I you know, if I did. I
mean I won the Phoenix Open in 99 playing with him the last two rounds in the
same group with me and I won that. I'll never forget that because he was the
number one ranked player in the world. He, you know - and that's just something
I can tell my children and I love that fact. And I wanted that again a year ago
but I just about got up. You know I didn’t quite get it, but it doesn't affect
me. It doesn't scare me. It doesn't make me nervous. None of that stuff. I just
want to beat him somehow.

DAVIES: All right. So on the last day of this tournament where everybody knows
that nobody can get ahead of Tiger if he started the day ahead, you did. I mean
you played well, and with one hole to go for each of them you had a one stroke
lead and it was at some point in this that the TV commentator, Johnny Miller,
the former golfer, said something that like Rocco looks more like Tiger's pool
boy than a U.S. Open champion.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: And it generates some controversy.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: How'd you feel about that?

Mr. MEDIATE: I didn't care. I thought it was funny. You know Johnny is a buddy
of mine and Johnny shoots from the hip too, but you know he just says those
things some times. I was the first call I got on, he was the first call I got
on Tuesday morning was from him to apologize. He said I think I got myself in
trouble. What do you think? I said I'm fine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MEDIATE: You know?

DAVIES: You took it as a compliment?

Mr. MEDIATE: No well I didn't really take it as anything. You know I'm like
it's no big deal. It's just how it is. I mean you know Tiger's pedigree. I'm
not. Those things happen and you know a lot of times obviously it didn't
happen. The amazing thing didn't happen. I did not win the golf tournament, but
it would've been a lot more stories written like that if I did.

DAVIES: All right. So despite Tiger being three strokes ahead on this playoff.

Mr. MEDIATE: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: You play well. You come up, and again, on the last whole have a one
stroke lead

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: And again Tiger managers a birdie. So you’re tied again and go to a one
hole playoff. And finally, Tiger wins.

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: What did the two of you say to each other at the end of it?

Mr. MEDIATE: Well, you know, I just went over and after I just missed that par
putt to tie. And I walked over and I just he just kind of had his hand out and
I just kind of hugged him. I don’t want any part of a handshake. I just kind of
hugged him and he said great fight. And I said you too and that was it.


Mr. MEDIATE: It's nothing really much to say. It was a long day, a long week
and it was just a very… Roger (unintelligible) and Mark Rolfing were taken back
some much because it was so emotional. You know, they're the on course
announcers for us. Roger was following, talking with Tiger and Mark was talking
with me so, following me. So it was just an emotional… Everybody couldn't
believe how it turned out, because in all it was over after 9, after 10 holes
everyone thought. Except for me.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. MEDIATE: Everyone thought it was over. The world said this is ridiculous
I'm sure, but it became not ridiculous. I knew that if I could do what I had to
do I could beat him. You know? And I walked to 16th tee box, one ahead, that's
was exactly where I wanted to be. I wasn't surprised, shocked, worried. I just
said if I do my job, the next three holes, it's mine.

DAVIES: Well you know Tiger is known for getting big crowds and adoring crowds.

Mr. MEDIATE: Mm-hmm.

DAVIES: But in this tournament, where you’re the guy, the on they call every

Mr. MEDIATE: Right.

DAVIES: The guy who came in knocking one of the top 100 golfers in the world
and takes him a place that no other player ever has on a last day. How did the
crowd react to you? What did you feel from them?

Mr. MEDIATE: Oh it was total - they were totally me that day. They were very
good with both of us. But the screams and the names, screaming the name and it
was so loud. And they just thought they were going to see something that was
never done before and they enjoyed that. You know they, everybody loves Tiger.
Believe me, but in this instance they were crazy and it was cool. It was one of
the coolest… I'll never see anything like it before no matter what I do. Thirty
thousand people following two people. I mean the 18th grandstand was full at
seven o'clock in the morning. We didn't get there until after two o'clock.
After one o'clock. So I tell you it was amazing. It was amazing.

DAVIES: Well Rocco Mediate, good luck on the tour and thanks so much for
speaking with us.

Mr. MEDIATE: You got it, my friend. Take care.

DAVIES: Rocco Mediate's book with John Feinstein is called "Are You Kidding
Me?" I'm Dave Davies sitting in today for Terry Gross.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Cannes film festival


Today we continue with Terry’s conversation with our critic-at-large John
Powers about this year’s Cannes Film Festival that ended on Sunday. John is
also film critic for Vogue.

TERRY GROSS: I want to start by asking you about Quentin Tarantino’s new film.
Tarantino’s new film is a World War II film called “Inglorious Basterds.” And
for what I was reading, it kept seeming like it was really expensive and it
kept being postponed and may be re-edited. And now I was thinking, oh it’s
probably a real problem film but it seemed to be really popular at Cannes. How
did - tell us about the movie.

JOHN POWERS: “Inglorious Basterds” was probably the hottest ticket of the
festival. In its first screening - you know, anywhere, was 8:30 in the morning
and people were lining up at 7:00 in the morning to see a World War II film by
Quentin Tarantino. And no one knew quite what to expect and there’s much talk
that it was insanely violent and all sorts of things. In fact, it’s a very
amusing film. What Tarantino has done, I think, is take us back to a different
era. If you look at the history of World War II movies, you know, the ones
during World War II were largely very serious because they were fighting World
War II.

That switched a bit in the 60s where you actually had things like “The Great
Escape” or “The Dirty Dozen” where World War II became a back-drop for sort of
– for action and excitement. Now that might hit some sort of peak probably in
that silly sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes” where a prisoner of war camp in World War II
is the place we have a sitcom. In the 80s, things got serious again. You know?
And Steven Spielberg, in particular, was the person trying to take people back
to the serious appreciation of World War II, both in “Schindler’s List” and its
handling of the Holocaust, and then later in his film “Saving Private Ryan,”
which was going to show us about what it was a really like to be, you know, at
the D day invasion.

Tarantino takes us back to the 60s, with the films that are more or less romps
or capers, set during the backdrop of World War II. And that story basically
follows three major characters. One of them is a young Jewish woman whose
family has been murdered, one is the evil Nazi, beautifully played by the guy
who won best actor, a guy named Christoph Waltz, the evil Nazi, and the third
one is Brad Pitt’s character who leaves a group of guys called Inglorious
Basterds who basically go around slaughtering Nazis. And these three people
eventually come together at a movie theatre in Paris for a big climax.

The film, from the beginning, is extremely funny, very, very entertaining.
Tarantino is a wonderful writer of scenes, and almost every scene is filled
with sharp dialog and good acting and good jokes. I don’t think the film adds
up to very much. It’s a bit of a romp in the way that something like “The Great
Escape” is a romp. But in fact, as you’re watching, it’s a really, really good
time. And it’s so far away from being serious about World War II that you don’t
feel offended by the silliness and violence in the way that would have if
Tarantino was trying to make a serious World War II movie like “Saving Private

GROSS: Vampires are making a really big comeback in American popular culture.
There’s a South Korean film about vampires that showed at the Cannes Film
Festival, tell us about that one.

POWERS: The film is called “Thirst.” It’s by a guy named Park Chan-wook, who
you - people might know from a film called “Oldboy.” The film is coming out
later this summer and so it’s very-seeable.

GROSS: Coming out in the States?

POWERS: It has - in the States, yes. It has one of the great – I think one of
the great premises, I think, for a vampire film I’ve ever seen, which is that
it’s about a South Korean priest who, because he loves humanity, goes off to a
special clinic where they’re doing medical research and he gives his body up to
medical research. The problem is that he gets a disease that turns him into a
vampire. So you have a guy who goes from metaphorically drinking the blood of
Christ to a creature who now must drink the blood of human beings. But although
he is a vampire who must drink the blood of human beings, he still has the
mentality of a priest who is trying to behave well in the world.

So - and the film is a once spooky and tender and very-very comic. It races out
of control at the ending, I think gets too bloody and nuts from my taste -
although a lot of people really loved. But the setup really is this brilliant
setup of what happens when you get a vampire who knows he shouldn’t be a
vampire, who is morally opposed to killing people - all the ways in which he
tries to keep going, the ways of keeping alive, the ways of doing the right and
decent thing, while at the same knowing that you actually have to drink blood
to survive.

GROSS: That sounds really interesting.

POWERS: It’s a very interesting film, yeah.

DAVIES: We’re listening Terry’s conversation with our critic-at-large John
Powers about this year’s Cannes Film Festival. We will hear more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

Let’s get back to Terry’s conversation with our critic-at-large John Powers. He
has just returned from the Cannes Film Festival.

GROSS: John, what was your biggest disappointment at the Cannes Film Festival?

POWER: Oh, I think many people’s biggest disappointment, including mine, was
“Taking Woodstock,” the Ang Lee film which is clearly designed to commemorate
Woodstock, which happened 40 years ago. And it’s a film that stars Demetri
Martin as one of the guys who basically setup the Woodstock thing. And he is a
more or less young man who’s trapped with his parents who are running a dead-
beat hotel in and around Woodstock. And the film is designed to offer this
vision of that era. And instead what happens is it becomes something of a Neil
Simon play with an overbearing greedy Jewish mom and a cliché Vietnam vet
played by Emile Hirsch.

And it’s a film that promised to give you so much texture of life in the ‘60s,
and instead what happens is that it turns into a bit of parity of what
Woodstock in that period was like. That said, it has incredibly great
production design. I think anyone who watches the film and who lived through
that period will think: Wow, boy the costumes are really perfect. Everything
looks exactly right. You know, at that level it’s a great film, but it’s just a
very, very wan film. You want a film about these great cultural events to have
a real oomph, but instead it winds up being the small, even kind of dinky film
that doesn’t make you feel anything, when of course what you want from
Woodstock is something that makes you feel something, even if it’s disapproval
or nostalgia or regret.

This film is so small that it doesn’t do it. I mean, I think that almost
everybody who saw it from America, didn’t like it. I suspected, because it’s
not a very good film, that one reason why Cannes put it in the competition this
year was that they had turned down “Brokeback Mountain” and got a lot of grief
for it. So, I think this time they thought we are not going to make the same
mistake twice and they put this one in, and this is probably one that shouldn’t
have been in the festival. Very amiable film, fun to watch, just not very good
at all.

GROSS: So, one of the movies at Cannes is a movie from Romania that was
masterminded by the same film-maker who made a film that was very popular in
art houses in the United Houses a couple of years ago, called “4 Months, 3
Weeks And 2 Days.” And it was about a woman trying to get an abortion during a
time that it was very illegal under the Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.
So, this film too is about life under Ceausescu, life under dictatorship. Tell
us about the movie.

POWERS: Well, it’s called “Tales from the Golden Age,” ironically enough, and
the film is five stories about life in the Ceausescu era and there are five
very different tales, you know. And each one has this sort of ironic twist or a
melancholy twist about life during that time. So the first one, it shows a
bunch of people more or less preparing for Ceausescu’s brief arrival in their
village, where they are getting phone calls from Ceausescu’s front people
saying Ceausescu didn’t like the animals lining the road in the last place he
was, switch to sheep.

And so you basically watch them creating a reality for the dictator. And at the
end of that particular episode, everybody in the town winds up on a whirly gig
at the local thing, and they realize that even the guy who started the whirly
gig is on the whirly gig. So they’re all spinning around with no way of getting
off, which becomes a metaphor for what life is like there. Over the next four
episodes, you get different aspects of life in Ceausescu’s Romania. You know,
one of the stories is about a guy whose job it is to doctor photos in the paper
so that Ceausescu looks taller than the foreign dignitaries who come to visit.

One of the stories is about a family in Bucharest who has a friend who is
willing to give them a pig, but the problem is they have to slaughter the pig
in their own apartment. And to make that even harder, they have to slaughter
the pig in their own apartment without it being able to squeal because as soon
as it squeals, all the neighbors will come and demand parts of the pig or
they’ll be turned into the police. So, it’s a series of crazy episodes and
vignettes that capture the absurdity and melancholy of a country that’s
completely under the control of one man, and that man makes life miserable and
everybody is at once scared and hustling at every moment trying to keep alive.

It’s a really, really good film and it’s just the latest film from that most
unlikely of film hotspots, Romania. I mean, if you told me 10 years ago that
almost every year when I talk to you Terry, that I’d come back saying one of
the very best things at Cannes was a film from Romania, I wouldn’t have
believed it. And now everyone knows it, you know, that Romanian films are hot,
believe it or not.

GROSS: Well, John thanks for talking with us about the Cannes Film Festival.
It’s always good to talk with you.

POWERS: It was my pleasure, thanks.

DAVIES: John Powers is FRESH AIR’S critic-at-large and film critic for Vogue.
You can download Podcasts of our show at
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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