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Mediate enjoying 'second career' on Champions Tour

| Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

The drive to dinner had Rocco Mediate wondering aloud why there were so many cars out on a Thursday night.

“Roc,” Jessica Somers said to her fiance, “it's Friday.”

Bouts of discombobulation, such as the one that happened two weeks ago, appear to be the extent of the culture shock that Mediate has experienced since joining the Champions Tour.

The Greensburg native has won and finished fifth in his first two starts on the Champions Tour, flashing the kind of game and personality that could make him a star on the 50-and-over circuit.

“It's been a blast,” Mediate said. “Everything is really good.”

That may be an understatement.

Mediate shot 61 the day after Somers corrected him on the way to dinner, and that round propelled him to a two-stroke victory at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Fla. Mediate followed the victory over Bernhard Langer and Tom Pernice Jr. with a top-5 finish Sunday at the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla.

His start suggests that the biggest adjustment for Mediate in transitioning from the PGA Tour is getting used to tournaments starting Fridays and not Thursdays, as is standard on the tour where he won six times and played regularly for more than two decades.

It shouldn't take Mediate long to acclimate to a new routine; he will play a full schedule on the Champions Tour. Mediate has not ruled out playing on the PGA Tour again, but he opted for the continuity that comes with full playing privileges on the Champions Tour.

“I want to have a place where I know where I am going for a year and get settled again,” said Mediate, who has been in southern California while the tour is on a three-week hiatus. “I still feel really good, and I don't have any problems. I don't feel 50 at all.”

It is hard to blame Mediate, who turned 50 a week before Christmas, for wanting to stay in the moment.

He said he is hitting the ball farther than ever — he attributes the distance to improved technique and better understanding of the golf swing — and he ranks among the tour leaders in putting.

Mediate regularly practices putting from 6 feet and in, using a chalk line to keep his stroke steady. Scott Piercey, who is among the top 20 money earners on the PGA Tour this season, talked to him in 2010 about the drill in which a straight line is marked from the cup and putts are practiced from different spots on the line.

A couple of weeks later, Mediate, who had hit the ball well but struggled on the greens, won the Frys.com Open.

“Without that,” he said, “I don't win.”

The chalk drill has remained a part of his practice regimen and helped Mediate enter what he calls a “second career” at the top of his game.

“He put in the time this winter getting ready for this tour,” said Frank Zoracki, Mediate's business manager and friend. “He wanted to make a mark right away, and, obviously, he's done that.”

Mediate has had to play well to compete with the top senior players.

“My motto is, ‘These guys are still good,' ” Mediate said, playing off a PGA Tour marketing slogan. “This isn't an exhibition. This is raw, nasty competition I've seen so far. You want to kill everybody and then hang out.”

That makes it an ideal circuit for Mediate, who thrives in that kind of environment since he is as engaging as he is competitive.

“He knows he belongs now,” said Langer, who has almost 90 career victories. “And he's going to love this tour because his personality suits this tour just perfectly.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at sbrown@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ScottBrown_Trib.

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