Rocco Mediate is a six-time winner on the PGA Tour and a three-time winner on the Champions Tour, but it was his sudden-death loss to Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open that brought Mediate his most fame.
What fans didn’t know is that Mediate would often drink alcohol while playing.
In an interview with The Golf Channel that aired Wednesday, Mediate described himself as a “habitual alcoholic” and talked about how frequently he drank before he gave up alcohol in 2017.
“I couldn’t tell you since last October, years before that, a day I went without having a drink,” Mediate said. “I knew at the time that eventually it was going to get me.”
Like Woods, Mediate struggled with back problems throughout his career and even used a long putter at times to avoid bending over as much.
The pain caused him to turn to alcohol to cope, he said, and drank most of his time on the course while in pain.
“Absolutely I have (played while drinking). Because it was just normal for me. It was just a daily ritual, let’s say,” Mediate said. “You can put it in a lot of places. A lot of places.
“Was it every time? No. But most of the time when the pain came in, it wasn’t not going to happen.”
Mediate’s duel with Woods at Torrey Pines in 2008 linked them together forever, and Mediate said he could relate to the pain that Woods went through during and after his multiple back surgeries.
Following one of those surgeries, Woods was arrested for DUI after a reaction from taking prescription drugs. Mediate said that could have easily been him getting pulled over considering everything he was putting into his body.
“When that happened, I went, ‘Mm-hmm, yeah. I just didn’t get caught,'” Mediate said. “But when it comes to that type of pain, you’ll basically do whatever it takes to be able to go, ‘Oh, that feels better.'”
After winning the Senior PGA Championship in 2016, Mediate missed the cut for two majors in 2017 and finished outside the top 40 for the other two.
Then in late 2017, he decided to quit alcohol on the spot after talking with his wife, Jessica.
“I actually didn’t know what I was going to feel. I was hoping that I didn’t need to have it,” Mediate said. “I didn’t need alcohol, I just wanted it. I enjoyed it. Simple as that. If I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh God,’ then we have some serious problems called rehab. Didn’t want to have to do that.
“Had a small headache for about four hours, and that was the end. Done.”
In his first Champions Tour major following giving up drinking, Mediate finished in eighth place at The Tradition. He then had two more top-20 finishes at the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior Players Championship.
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