Blog: Rocco's buddies watch the game in Murrysville
June 16, 2008 4:15 PM
Friends of golfer Rocco Mediate cheer his near-hole-in-one on the par 3 third hole in U.S. Open playoff with Tiger Woods at the Torey Pines in San Diego. They were watching on TV from Bruschetta's Restaurant in Murrysville.
Friends of Rocco Mediate cheer his par putt on the 18th hole to force a sudden-death hole in his U.S. Open playoff with Tiger Woods at the Torey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. They were watching on TV from Bruschetta's Bar & Grill in Murrysville.
By Steve Levin Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The bar is quiet as a church as Tiger looked over the birdie putt that would give him the U.S. Open title.
The putt is short. "We have A chance," Zoracki says.
But Rocco has to sink a long one for par. Not many in the bar are hopeful that he can make the shot he needs to send the sudden-death playoff to a second hole.
"Anybody can make anything from anywhere," Adamek says. "But the chances ..."
Rocco rolls it right, to within inches of the cup. Tiger wins.
Not a word is said. The bar empties.
"You can't make 'em all, can you?" someone at the bar pleads as Tiger stands over his eagle putt.
Several people jingle their keys again in an attempt to jinx him.
"For me, it can't get over fast enough," Zoracki says.
People at the bar hid their faces, look away, knock their glasses together.
Tiger's putt isn't close. Put a birdie still is a possibility.
Zoracki is near tears. Both golfers are sitting at three.
"Come on, Rocco,'' several people say as he eyes his 25-foot putt for birdie and the national championship.
His putt goes four feet past the hole.
"I told him to lag it," Grettler moans.
"Miss one in your career," someone yells at the TV as Tiger prepares to stroke his birdie putt.
"Are you praying?" someone asks Zoracki.
"You think it would help?'' he replies.
Tiger makes birdie, Rocco sinks his parr putt, and they off to sudden death.
"Get on the green, Roc!!" several people plead as he hits his approach to the 1th green.
Three dozen people crowded around the bar exhale as one. With Rocco standing over his ball to putt, Krushinski says, "Put it close, Roc."
But Rocco sends it a few feet past the hole.
"Good putt, good putt," a couple of people say, without much enthusiasn.
Tiger's birdie putt is short. People scream.
"C'mon, Roc. Put it in, Roc."
The bar is quiet as the putt rolls toward the hole. It drops, "Yeah!"
"One more to go, Roc, one more."
Zoracki is biting his nails as the golfers tee off on 16.
"Business-wise, this is the best day of my life," Rocco's agent tells Lafferty the Totteridge Golf Club manager.
A TV cameraman asks Adamek who's ahead.
"We're up -- " Adamek says, before catching himself and saying, "Rocco's up one."
When Tiger's putt is an inch short, there are high-fives all around.
Rocco leads by a stroke with two holes to play.
At 3 p.m., Grettler buys drinks for everyone.
Minutes later, Tiger hits a poor tee shot on 15 into a fairway bunker.
"If Rocco nails this, it'll put pressure on Tiger," Adamek says.
After Tiger makes a tremendous shot to the green that falls inside of Rocco's ball, several people at the bar wonder: "How does he do it?"
"That's why you're No. 1 in the world," Lafferty says.
"Come on, Rocco, make a putt for heaven's sakes," Krushinski says.
He does, and Lafferty shouts his pet phrase: "You say it!"
As Tiger gets ready to putt, people jangle keys and shout.
It works. He misses -- people hug and shout. Rocco is a shot ahead with three holes to play.
"Best bunker player there is,'' Zoracki says as Rocco leaves his shot eight feet above the 13th hole.
"If he makes one [putt], this is the one to make."
"He needs a little Grey Goose," says Kevin Adamek of Murrysville, a member at Oakmont and an investor in Bruschetta's.
Seconds after Rocco makes his birdie putt to tie the match, Zoracki gets a text message offering a "great deal" on a money-market fund for Rocco.
"Text back, 'Not interested,'" Lafferty says.
But then Tiger makes his birdie putt and Rocco finds himself one behind yet again.
"Rodney -- what's the royalties payment on this?'' Zoracki asked as more local TV crews show up at Bruschetta's.
Tiger bogies the 11th.
"One at a time,'' Lafferty says, as Rocco draws within two strokes of Tiger.
"This is the only time when we cheer against Tiger -- when he's playing against Rocco," says Bert Krushinski of Murrysville.
After Tiger throws his club in disgust when he chunks his fairway shot on 12, Jeff Riems throws his arms in the air in mock horror.
"Can you imagine? Losing your temper on the golf course?"
Zoracki looks at him with pity. "Riems pouts all the time. His favorite line is, 'Everybody gets all the breaks, and I get the bad breaks."
Rocco leaves his approach on No. 10.
"He's nervous," someone at the bar says. "You can tell he's nervous."
"That's a weekend-golfer's shot,'' someone adds.
But Tiger's fairway shot from the edge of the rough bites the green so hard that the ball rolls back to the fringe.
Still, Rocco duffs his own chip.
"If Tiger makes this shot, it's over,'' another man shouts.
And he does, for par.
After Rocco's putt for par slides by the hole, the bar is silent.
Rocco falls three strokes behind with eight holes to play.
"How do you play this shot?" someone asked Lafferty about Tiger's bunker shot on No. 9.
"Shank it,'' Lafferty yelled.
Tiger does just that, into the rough.
"Rocco's the people's champ,'' said Zoracki, apropos of nothing.
The idea takes hold.
"The people's champ! The people's champ!'' people at the bar shouted.
"Who are the people?" someone wondered.
"Alcoholics, mainly,'' another wag shot back.
"He's been hitting his long putts long," someone says as Rocco stands over a long putt on the seventh green.
Of course, he leaves it two feet short.
As TV commentators discuss how much better Tiger seems to be handling his knee injury today than he did yesteday, a wag at the bar says, "Why don't you just say he took some Oxy-Contin?''
"Yeah, he went into the Porta-Potty and snorted it," a different wagger shoots back.
On the par 3 eighth, Tiger's tee shot burrows itself in a sand trap.
"Buried!" goes the cry from the crowd. "Double hit it!"
Grettler orders his kitchen to bake pizza for the crowd, now numbering 15. He wants everyone to know, though, that his veal and pasta are worth ordering.
Cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos -- the place has the feel of someone's den except for the nearby table of 70-somethings, who think everyone is being too loud.
Bruschetta's is gathering place because it's just 10 minutes from Totteridge Golf Club in Greensburg. When club manager Matt Lafferty gives directions to the course, he tells people "it's just past the Climax Theater," a Triple XXX place on Route 22.
Rocco is an original investor in the club and has a summer place just behind the first green.
If Rocco wins and gets on Letterman, all of his playing partners and friends here have pledged to go to New York.
After a Tiger chip to within two feet of the cup on No. 4, someone said, "He's pretty good."
The party atmosphere turns grim after Rocco's second shot, from a fairway bunker on No. 5, hits two cart paths and bounds off into western San Diego County. But Rocco recovers for a bogey, evening the match after five holes.
Frank Zoracki, Rocco's manager and agent, says his man will be on Jay Leno tonight, win or lose, and maybe Letterman tomorrow, if he wins.
Twelve of Rocco's friends had gathered by 12:30. Several ordered ham and cheese sandwiches, even though owner Rod Grettler says the brick-oven pizza is the best his restaurant has to offer.
Tiger tees off on the par-3 third hole and a voice is heard on TV saying, "In the hole!!!"
But someone at Bruschetta's yells, "In the ocean!!!"
When Rocco's tee shot nearly holes out, the place erupts.
Porsches and Mercedes began arriving at Bruschetta's in Murrysville by 11:35 today for the U.S. Open playoff between hometown favorite Rocco Mediate and someone named Tiger.
Well-tanned and white-toothed, wearing shorts and sports shirts, all are friends and playing partners of the man they call "Roc."
Quickly they organized a game of Roll 'em -- where points are won based on pars, birdies, closest to the pin, and eagles.
Pre-tee-off talk centered on TV commentator Johnny Miller's comments yesterday about how Rocco looked like someone who cleans Tiger Woods' pool. They joked that they might send Miller a fish wrapped in newspaper.