Mediate was playing reporter in the interview area as Woods was stepping off the podium after trying to explain his impossibly dramatic charge to take the 54-hole lead at 3-under-par. Mediate spoke for the entire human race: "Mr. Woods, Mr. Woods! Right here! Are you COMPLETELY OUT OF YOUR MIND?".... Woods laughed and the two slapped hands.... Golf gets no better than this. Hell, sport gets no better.
I'm not one who includes athletes in the definition of "hero". Athletes play games, and some play them exceedingly well. And there's Rocco Mediate, who not only plays golf exceedingly well, but also possesses the perspective and wherewithal to recognize that what he gets paid for is playing a game...and he has a helluva lot of fun while doing it.
I watching Saturday's third round of the US Open in my hotel room, and while I don't normally watch golf on television (frankly, I'd rather go ice fishing in my BVDs), golf's major tournaments can be something special. I watched both Mediate and Tiger Woods pull off shots that no merely mortal should by rights be able to; Mediate was having the time of his life, and Woods was...well, he was doing what Tiger Woods very often does: defy the laws of physics and reality.
The couldn't be more different: Woods is a sculpted, highly-conditioned athlete in his early 30s; Mediate a 45-year-old Everyman who looks like a CPA. Woods swing is virtually perfect, the stuff of legend and the sort of thing that golf professionals try to teach their students. Mediate's swing looks like something you might see in an old Monty Python skit...and if you watch it in slow motion, you can actually see him grimace. Though both approach the game from very different directions, their methods work very well. Everyone expects great things from Tiger Woods. No one expects much from Rocco Mediate...and perhaps that's why he was clearly having the time of his life on Saturday. He was on a golf course on a Saturday afternoon, hitting shots he clearly had no business hitting, and making putts he had no business making. OK, so he had a four-hole stretch where all hell broke loose and he was four over par. Even with all of that, the smile never left Mediate's face. He was having the time of his life, and it showed. In an era when so many professional athletes live in fear of abject failure and the accompanying embarrassment, Mediate somehow found a way to maintain perspective and keep a smile on his face. Hey, he's a professional golfer playing on one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world on a Saturday afternoon. If you love the game, I'm not certain it gets any better than that.
Mediate and Woods tied for the lead after 72 holes, so they'll be having an 18-hole playoff today. I seriously doubt that anyone will be having any more fun than Rocco Mediate.