Rocco Mediate is best known to golf fans for losing to Tiger Woods in a playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open, but the affable Pennsylvania native had long kept a secret while he dealt with serious back pain throughout his career.
Speaking with Golf Channel’s Vince Cellini on an episode of PGA Tour Champions Learning Center, which aired on Wednesday night, the six-time PGA Tour winner admitted to being a “habitual alcoholic.”
“I couldn’t tell you, since last October, years before that, a day I went without having a drink,” Mediate said. “I knew at the time that eventually it was going to get me.
“The year of 2017 was a pretty a-ha moment. In ’17, everything was just so bad. My golf game was just horrible. I felt like crap. It just wasn’t the right thing. I call myself a habitual alcoholic because it was. And I was lucky, because if it’s dependent, or if it’s chemical, or if it’s hereditary — which I have no alcoholism in my family that I even know of, ever — then I got issues.”
Mediate likened his alcohol consumption to a daily ritual like having coffee — it was just a part of his routine — so it wasn’t unusual for him to imbibe while in competition.
“Absolutely have (played while drinking),” Mediate replied. “Because it was just normal for me. It was just a daily ritual. Most people knew. Was it every time? No. Most of the time when the pain came in, it wasn’t not going to happen.
“Remember a couple of years ago when Tiger got pulled over for having whatever (in his system)? I completely get it.
“You’ll do anything to stop it, when you have this kind of pain wherever the pain is. When that happened [to Tiger] I thought, ‘Mmhm. Yeah. I just didn’t get caught.’ But when it comes to that type of pain, you’ll basically do whatever it takes to be able to go, ‘oh, that feels better.’”
Mediate’s career arc spans nearly 35 years now. He captured his first career victory on the PGA Tour in 1991 and his last in 2010. He also won the 2016 Senior PGA Championship.
Now, sober for over a year, Mediate is looking to knock off his next victory soon.
“I actually didn’t know what I was going to feel. I was hoping that I didn’t need to have it,” he said. “I didn’t need alcohol, I just wanted it. I enjoyed it. Simple as that. If I woke up and I was like, ‘Oh God,’ then we have some serious problems called rehab. Didn’t want to have to do that. Had a small headache for about four hours, and that was the end. Done.”