Although Rocco Mediate seems to be extremely comfortable in his first tournament on the Champions Tour, his opponents might be getting a bit uncomfortable.
Mediate, 50, blistered The Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton with an 11-under-par 61 on Saturday to take a three-shot lead over Tom Pernice Jr. Mediate is 16-underr with rounds of 67 and 61 for a 128 total, while Pernice is at 13-under 131 after rounds off 66 and 65.
Explaining his success, Mediate gave a simple theory: “I always say you start out in the first fairway and just move forward.”
On Saturday, he moved so far forward most of the field might need binoculars to catch sight of him.
Here are some noteworthy achievements Mediate’s 61 produced Saturday:
• The 11-under 61 set a course and Allianz tournament record. The old Allianz record was a 63 by Craig Stadler in 2007.
• The round was the best of Mediate’s career, one stroke better than a 62 he shot at Colonial in 2001.
• Mediate’s two-round total of 16-under is another Allianz record.
If he goes on to win the tournament, he will become the 16th player to win their first start on the Champions Tour, joining the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
“You make a few putts, then all of a sudden things happen,” said Mediate, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour.
Mediate wants to make it clear that talk of him dominating the Champions Tour should be ignored, which makes some sense because he has turned in the grand total of two scorecards on the over-50 circuit.
“I came to the Champions Tour with no feeling it would be a walk in the park,” he said. “There are no slouches around here. People say it’s only three rounds, there’s no cut —it’s easy out there. It isn’t.
“I kept looking up at the scoreboard and I was 10-under and I only had a one-stroke lead. I thought to myself, ‘Interesting.’ ”
Mediate’s round consisted of no bogeys, and he birdied five consecutive holes (Nos. 3 through 7) on the front nine. On the back nine, he birdied the first three holes then finished with a birdie on 17 followed by an eagle on the 507-yard par-5 18th when he hit driver followed by a 9-iron (yes, a 9-iron) to 10 feet and then dropped the putt.
If that wasn’t enough fun for both Mediate and his fans, he drove the green on the par-4 290-yard seventh hole, a feat that had the gallery hollering and cheering.
Pernice, who was tied for the lead after the first round with a superb 66, came back Saturday by playing even better, shooting a 65. Not good enough. He went from being a stroke ahead of Mediate on Friday to three shots back.
“Rocco shot a 61, so he should be leading,” Pernice said. “I’m not frustrated. I can’t worry about what I can’t control.”
Pernice thinks he can still win the tournament.
“There’s always [Sunday],” he said. “I’m glad the tournament is three rounds and not two.”
Mediate summed up the tournament so far by saying, “I can’t tell you that I expected to be at 16-under-par after two rounds — if I did, I would be completely lying.”
And his plan for Sunday? It’s simple, and if he executes it, almost foolproof.
“I have to go out and try to perform just like I did [Saturday],” he said.