Rocco Mediate is the first one to admit it. A year ago he was a mite nervous.
Even though Mediate is the ultimate free spirit, he was about to start a new career of sorts. Even easy-going, funny, gracious and talkative individuals such as Mediate sometime have to adjust, and Mediate was making his debut on the Champions Tour, thus the nerves. His debut as an over-50 golfer was in the Allianz Championship, and he made himself a lasting memory by winning the event on The Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton.
Those nerves just seemingly melted away each day of the three-day tournament, including while he shot a 61 on Saturday.
“It was a great way to start off on the Champions Tour,” Mediate said.
So, on Feb. 7, Mediate goes back to The Old Course as the defending champion in the Allianz Championship. “I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.
And South Florida is looking forward to the top professionals in the world coming to the area in the next six weeks with the Allianz Championship (Feb. 7-9), The Honda Classic (Feb. 27-March 2) and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship (March 6-9) at the revamped Blue Monster at Trump National Doral.
Allianz is the tournament that kicks everything off.
If you want to see some of the legendary golfers you grew up following, that’s the place to be. There are seven members of the World Golf Hall of Fame scheduled to play in the Allianz and 27 of the top 30 on last year’s Champions Tour money-earnings list. The Hall of Famers are Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, Colin Montgomerie and Curtis Strange.
And, just like Mediate was a year ago, there are several first-timers in the field — Rick Fehr, Brian Henninger, John Inman and Japan’s Kohki Idoki.
The Allianz is the first full-field Champions event of the year.
“We really like how everything is going,” said Ryan Dillon, executive director of the Allianz.
And, after the Allianz, comes The Honda Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. That’s an event that just added Sergio Garcia to its field.
“It’s great to have Sergio return after a few years away,” Honda executive director Ken Kennerly said. “The game’s elite players see the Honda Classic as a ‘must play’ event.”
Garcia is a nice addition for Honda, but of course everybody is waiting to see if Tiger Woods will play in the event. Don’t expect that announcement until some 10 to 14 days before the tournament. Organizers want to build some drama.
Proximity is the key to landing Tiger, who lives pretty much within shouting distance of PGA National.
The week after Honda, the focus moves down to Miami and the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral. Not much to discuss about that field, because you can pretty much expect every top golfer in the world to be there.
And you can also expect Donald Trump, the new owner of Doral, to be here, there and everywhere during the tournament. He will be literally dropping in to watch — landing his helicopter on his new helipad off the ninth fairway.
THAT’S A FACT, JACK
Does golf keep you fit? It depends. If you walk the course carrying your clubs, you will burn about 1,550 calories. If you use a hand cart, it goes down to 1,350 calories. And if you ride in a cart, skip that hot dog after the round — only 820 calories expended.