Rocco Mediate, who won in his Champions Tour debut this weekend, shoots during a practice round for the Memorial golf tournament in Dublin, Ohio in 2009.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rocco Mediate waited six years on the PGA Tour before he was able to win his first tournament. His wait on the Champions Tour was much shorter. Considerably shorter.
Like, three days.
Less than two months after turning 50, Mediate's debut on the Champions Tour was a smashing success when he won the Allianz Championship -- the first full-field event on the senior circuit -- by two shots in Boca Raton, Fla.
"I'm ecstatic," said Mediate, a Greensburg native who lives in Naples, Fla. "I have been saying all week it's never easy. It shouldn't be easy."
Mediate shot a final-round 71 -- 10 shots higher than his previous round -- and finished at 17-under 199, good for a two-shot victory over Tom Pernice Jr.
Mediate becomes the 16th player to win in his Champions Tour debut, joining the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Ironically, the previous player to win his Champions Tour debut was Pernice, his playing partner, who did it in 2009.
"I don't belong with those guys," Mediate said.
But, for three days, he certainly made it look easy at the Old Course at Broken Sound Golf Club, especially when he shot a career-low 61 in the second round to carry a three-shot lead into the final round.
Still, Mediate needed a birdie at the final hole to hold off Pernice and win the $270,000 first prize.
It was Mediate's first victory since the 2010 Frys.com Open, a win that made him fully exempt on the PGA Tour for two years. But that exemption expired at the end of 2012, leaving Mediate without any full-time status on the PGA Tour.
"This means as much to me as anything I've done," Mediate said.
Nearly 22 years after he won his first PGA Tour event in Florida at the Doral Ryder Open, Mediate won his first Champions Tour event some 40 miles north up the coast at Broken Sound, punctuating the victory with a tap-in birdie from 2 feet at the par-5 finishing hole.
It capped a week in which he made 19 birdies, an eagle and tied for the lead in greens in regulation (45 of 54, 83.3 percent).
Mediate made nine birdies and an eagle Saturday when he shot a course-record 61 to take a three-shot lead into the final round.
But that lead was gone by the 14th hole Sunday when Mediate pushed his tee shot at the par-3 hole and made bogey to drop into a tie with Pernice.
"That made me really mad," Mediate said. "It was like, 'Game on.' "
But Pernice failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker at No. 17 to drop a shot behind, and Mediate closed the door when he pitched to 2 feet from behind the green at the par-5 18th hole for a closing birdie and a two-shot victory.
Mediate won $270,000, which is just slightly more than the $252,000 he won in 1991 when he defeated Curtis Strange in a Monday playoff at Doral for his first PGA Tour victory.
"I really feel like I can do some cool things here," Mediate said. "That's the plan. I'm going to put the work in, that's for sure."
Mediate won six times on the PGA Tour and once was ranked No. 12 in the world golf rankings. He is also the first player to win a PGA Tour event using the long putter and might be more well-known for a tournament he didn't win -- losing a Monday playoff to Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open.
"He's a very established player," Pernice said. "From my perspective, he didn't have to prove anything. Usually when guys come out after they have stayed exempt on the regular tour, they play well. I would be surprised if Rocco didn't play well out here."