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Tiger Woods-Rocco Mediate pairing at Torrey Pines grabs interest

The two who famously battled at site in 2008 U.S. Open will play together with Anthony Kim in Farmers Insurance Open starting Thursday. Tour chief Tim Finchem says to expect more of such pairings.

January 26, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Tiger Woods, right, and Rocco Mediate share a laugh following Woods' victory at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
Tiger Woods, right, and Rocco Mediate share a laugh following Woods'… (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from La Jolla — — Most of the first- and second-round pairings for the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines follow a formula. It's not as if tournament directors just pull names out of a hat.

Except for three names. Maybe those were in a very small hat.

Tiger Woods, Rocco Mediate and Anthony Kim will play together Thursday and Friday at Torrey Pines.

"Funny how that pairing happened, huh? What a shocker," said Mediate, who at the 2008 U.S. Open here famously battled the limping Woods through regulation and then an extra 18 holes on the fifth day plus a sudden-death hole before Woods won.

That also was Woods' last major victory.

Ben Crane, who won at Torrey Pines last year and will play with Robert Garrigus and Arjun Atwal, laughed Tuesday when asked whether he was surprised about Woods and Mediate playing together.

"It's random, totally random," Crane said. "I think it's awesome. Really cool. Is it random?"

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that while there is still a formula that takes into consideration such things as world rankings, money winnings, Nationwide Tour finishes and many other factors, there will be more made-for-TV-and-Tiger pairings this year.

"We are going to do it a fair amount during the course of the year," Finchem said. "It does help our television product. We also think it creates a little bit more interest."

Woods has spent much of the last 2 1/2 years dealing first with physical problems and then fallout from a well-chronicled series of infidelities that led to a divorce and an abbreviated 2010 schedule.

Mediate, 48, has not been in as hot a spotlight as that emotional weekend in 2008 and since then has won only once — at a tournament in San Jose last October.

He smiled, though, at the thought of playing with Woods for two days.

"There are a lot of memories from that week for me," Mediate said Tuesday. "And 99.9% are really good ones. The only bad one was the outcome.

"But it's made me better, I think. I had my problems after that. I didn't want it, the U.S. Open at Torrey, to be my last anything. San Jose, last year, middle of October, it's like, 'That's not the end.' It's like, 'Yeah, I lost the U.S. Open but I came back a couple years later and won a golf tournament on the PGA Tour.' That's really cool to me."

When Mediate won in San Jose, he led all four rounds and was 47 years, 10 months old at the time. That gave him the record as the oldest wire-to-wire winner on the tour.

And that single win, on a cold day in October, brought Mediate to this glamour group at Torrey Pines. Without it, he wouldn't have kept his PGA Tour card. In fact, he had made plans to go to qualifying school in Florida.

"Thank God I didn't have to do that," Mediate said. "I get to be here and I get to be in a pairing, a category that pairs me with the man. I really can't ask for anything else."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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