U.S. Ryder Cup squad has its first alternate: Open hero Rocco Mediate
After a captivating U.S. Open week at Torrey Pines, two things are certain:
That was the most entertaining golf tournament I’ve ever watched (though I’m not going way of the horribly overused “greatest ever” label that the media and even you, the feeble readership, fall victim to too often in our instant gratification culture - as if any of us not around in the 1950s, or 1913 for the Francis Ouimet upset could accurately determine that).
And the other:
Rocco is Ryder worthy.
Even after his runner-up finish and 6th place at Memorial, Mediate won’t be in the standings’ top ten.
Suffice to say, if Rocco continues to play well and stay healthy, he should have an alternate spot locked up on Azinger’s squad at Valhalla in 2008. Azinger should strip his “better have a win” prerequisite for Mediate only.
You don’t need the best golfers in America on the Ryder Cup squad, you need the right mix. Kenny Perry and Justin Leonard are wily, battle-tested veterans. Rocco doesn’t have as prolific of a career, but name a bigger stage than 18 holes mono e mono with Tiger Woods for the U.S. Open.
And the crowds love Rocco. He’s as personable as you’ll find, sure to rile up the gallery at Valhalla even more. He even got a smile out of Tiger off the first tee this morning. His fidgety, talkative course demeanor might even get in the heads of his playing opponents in the tense Ryder Cup.
His ability to hit fairways will also drive longer, more sporadic opponents insane. As for his teammates, this is the kind of guy you rally around.
Rocco is the X-Factor, perhaps the X-factor that’s been missing on the American Ryder Cup squad since 1999. Tiger Woods is sure to endorse him for the team, though who knows if Woods will even play in the Ryder Cup this year given his health. He doesn’t sound all that keen on playing golf any time soon.
All the more reason to make room for Rocco.
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Secondly, Austin has had a worse year than Mediate.
Kim, Johnson and Stricker should be on notice.