Pro golfer Rocco Mediate says he's sober now, having taken his last drink on Oct. 23, 2017. But the self-described "habitual alcoholic" drank daily before that as a way to cope with the back pain that has dogged him throughout his career.
That includes his time on the course during PGA Tour events.
"Absolutely I have [played while drinking]. Because it was just normal for me. It was just a daily ritual, let's say," Mediate, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour who's best remembered for his duel with Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, told the Golf Channel's Vince Cellini. "You can put it in a lot of places. A lot of places. Was it every time? No. But most of the time when the pain came in, it wasn't not going to happen."
Mediate, 56, spends his time now on the PGA Tour Champions circuit for 50-plus golfers, scoring seven top 10 finishes last season. He had just one in 2017, his last tournament a tie for 56th out of 67 finishers at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic. That tournament ended on Oct. 22, 2017. The next day, he told Cellini, he simply stopped drinking after talking about it with his wife.
"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."
Mediate and Woods finished tied after four rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, with Mediate coming back from two shots down on Sunday to force an 18-hole playoff the next day. Woods would win the tournament, his most recent major championship, on the first hole of sudden death, the 19th hole of an extra round that saw Mediate roar back from a three-hole deficit on the back nine to take the lead heading to 18. Despite the loss, Mediate earned a spot in golf lore for not faltering against Woods in what was considered his prime.
Mediate told Cellini that he was sympathetic toward Woods, who has battled chronic injuries of his own, after the latter's DUI arrest in May 2017.
"When that happened, I went: 'Mm-hmm, yeah. I just didn't get caught,' " Mediate said. "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.' "