With the back pain that has hampered his career in recent years apparently under control, Rocco Mediate carded an 8-under-par 64 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the PGA Tour's Buick Open.
Mediate had eight birdies — four on each side — and didn't have a bogey on his card as he posted his lowest round on the PGA Tour since firing a 63 in the final round of the 2003 Mercedes-Benz Championship. The performance left the 44-year-old with a one-shot advantage over Brett Quigley, Woody Austin and Brian Bateman, who all shot 65 at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich.
"It was just solid," Mediate said in his post-round press conference. "I drove well. I had good irons — this has been one of the best years of my life coming out of this injury again.
"I'm ecstatic. I've had some nice weeks this year."
Mediate described his play as "on and off again" since having back surgery in 1994. A winner of five PGA Tour titles, Mediate said he was "dead" the last three years and he sank to a career-worst 206th on the money list in 2006, with only one top-10 performance.
This year, Mediate is feeling better most of the time and his game has followed suit. Entering this week, the Pennsylvania native has made the cut in seven of his 12 events, with a pair of top-10s, including a second-place finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March.
Mediate gave much of the credit for his health to physical therapist Cindi Hilfman.
"She has really made a difference," said Mediate, who shot a second-round 64 on his way to winning the Buick Open title in 2000. "I can move again and the golf swing works fairly well when I move.
"I tend to move a lot, so I need to have the mobility and the motion and I have it back now."
Despite only hitting nine of 14 fairways, Mediate was able to recover on what is commonly regarded as one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and had 27 putts without a single three-putt on his way to his best round in four years.
"It's been a long time, (but) this course will do that," Mediate said. "It's just a matter of putting the ball in the right spots here because you can get to some of these holes."
Like Mediate, Austin enjoyed a bogey-free round. The 1995 Buick Open champion made seven birdies.
"It was actually about as clean and as simple as I could have imagined," Austin told reporters. "I missed one green and it was by about a foot on No. 8 and it was still only about a 25-foot putt or 20-foot putt, so I never had to chip and never had to scramble.
"I was never under the gun too much to save any pars. I put the ball where I had to put it."
Quigley, whose round included a bogey on No. 5 and an eagle at the par-4 14th, said he was pleased with his approach on a course where he has to fight the tendency to get greedy.
"I have to be more patient because I have a tendency to press, knowing that guys are going to shoot 8 under the first round every year here because the greens are that good," Quigley said. "You feel like you should birdie every hole."
All will be chasing Mediate, who declined to make any weekend predictions, but certainly likes the way he's playing.
"I feel if I'm driving well here, I can do some damage," Mediate said.
June 29, 2007
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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