Rocco Mediate is in search of the perfect swing on each shot.
Every golfer is.
Mediate has had his share through the years on the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour, but in recent years he has experienced what he calls “physical failures in the golf swing.”
Recent conversations with his wife have helped Mediate, 59, overcome a few shortcomings and increase his confidence.
“I’m getting a little better,” Mediate said Thursday after carding a 2-under-par 68 in the first round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.
“I had some issues, I call them physical failures in the golf swing. I had a few things I messed with. But, you know, actually Jess, my wife’s kind of like, you know, you’ve been doing this for now 37 years now on tour, maybe you want to trust your muscle memory? Do you always have to keep screwing around with stuff?
Rocco Mediate reads the green on the 5th hole during the first round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Tournament at Firestone Country Club on Thursday. (Jeff Lange/Akron Beacon Journal)
“And it’s true, coming from someone who doesn’t play, she doesn’t play, she just watches. She’s like just go play. And I think that’s what I’m trying to do more. My attitude was like this is terrible, how am I going to get around with this? I think all of us go through it and it’s not really that bad. It’s just a matter of trusting — I call it trusting your shape. My shape does this. If I can’t trust it, no matter what’s over there, I’ve got issues. I’ve been trusting it more.”
Mediate finished Thursday’s first round four shots behind first-round leader Alex Cejka, who shot a 6-under-par 64 with six birdies.
Cejka started on No. 10 and made a birdie on Nos. 10, 12, 15 and 16 on the back nine. He then dropped in birdie putts on Nos. 7 and 9 on the front nine.
David Toms posted a 66 to sit in second place, and Jerry Kelly and Ernie Els are tied for third at 3-under-par.
Mediate’s 68 tied him with Miguel Angel Jiménez, Tim Petrovic, Steven Alker, Shane Bertsch, Bob Estes, Cameron Beckman and Tom Gillis for fifth at 2-under-par.
“I had a reasonable Open, the week before I played OK in Madison and this was a really clean — just a couple loose ones, but we’re human, unfortunately,” Mediate said. “I don’t know where I got the idea that we never miss because I must have been thinking — I must have had a dream that I was someone else because we always miss. It’s a matter of fixing your — you know, making up for that short game. Jerry Kelly, he never misses, he never misses.”
Rocco Mediate plays out of the bunker on the 6th hole during first round of the Bridgestone Senior Players Tournament at Firestone Country Club on Thursday. (Jeff Lange/Akron Beacon Journal)
Mediate said it is important to not overthink and overanalyze.
“Pete Bender’s one of the best of all time [caddies],” Mediate said. “He goes, ‘The only time you ever play crappy is when you think too much. No kidding.’ And he’s right, he’s right. It’s like it cuts through the crap. It’s like you’re doing this because you’re doing that. So my swing key always used to be gather and go, gather and go and that’s all I thought about today. Most of them came off where I was looking.
“You know, I didn’t think of any physical thing, just get in behind it and go, that’s it. So it worked most of the day. Hit a few bad ones. But Mr. Short Game, that’s why we do all that crap that makes up for it. It’s just Golf 101, I guess. But around here, it’s a good one. It’s just relentless. We were talking about it, it just doesn’t stop. There’s no like walk in the park if you miss a shot. It’s a nightmare if you miss in certain spots, but it is a great place. It’s cool that we’re here.”
Mediate finished tied for seventh last year at Firestone with a 4-over 284 that earned him $96,000.
“I’ve loved this course since I [first] played it,” Mediate said. “I think my first NEC was ’91 and I had a couple of 1-under rounds maybe and it was just so hard, and it still is.
“This year the rough’s not up like it was and I hit it in most of the fairways. Missed a couple, which [was] much easier to play from the short stuff. Always tell people, you know what, fairway mowers are really, really expensive and make the fairways perfect. Rough mowers are cheap, they don’t need good mowers to mow the rough. This is another one of those courses where it actually rewards you for hitting in the fairway. I think most of us love that, I know I do.
“And if you miss, too bad, deal with it. I caught a horrible two lies on 16, but it’s rough. You know, I’m like, God, I wish this was a foot more to the right. I had a hard pick. It was hard. That’s the game. We have to deal with it. I love courses like this. And like I said, I wish we played twice a month like this. Not every day because then we would all go completely bonkers, but I love the hard — and I’ve always loved Firestone, it’s hard not to like it.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Beaven on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.