Mediate, then ranked 157th in the world, took Tiger Woods to the 91st hole at the U.S. Open.
Dan Patrick: Was there a point when you thought you were going to win the U.S. Open?
Rocco Mediate: When I made that crazy putt down the hill on 15, I really thought I could beat him. And [on the 18th] I had a putt to beat him, which is all I can ask for.
DP: How were your nerves?
RM: When I was over the putt to beat him, the 18-footer, I said to myself, "You've waited for this chance your entire life. Make sure it has speed on it." And it did. I misread it a little bit. Then all of a sudden, from having a putt to win, I went to having a putt to stay alive. I didn't want to go out on a silly three-putt.
DP: Did you wear red on purpose on Monday?
RM: No. Everybody says that. I'm figuring that Tiger wore red on Sunday; I didn't think he'd wear red two days in a row. So as soon as I got to the range, he looks at me and goes, "Nice shirt." I said, "Hey, all you have is red?" We looked like we called each other the night before the prom.
DP: Twenty years from now, what's the moment you'll tell your kids about?
RM: Standing on the 1st tee box Monday, just me and him, with 25,000 people lining the holes, playing the man that's going to go down as the best player that ever walked on grass, for the United States Open. I've told people over the last few years that, with all the injuries, I want one more chance to play against this man for something. And I got that chance. And now my new thing is, I want it again. [Laughs.]
DP: How hurt did you think Tiger was during the playoff?
RM: I knew the knee was hurting him. But he never complained or made any excuses.
DP: Knowing how hurt he was, what do you think of his performance now?
RM: Nothing Tiger ever does is a surprise to me.
DP: How can Tiger's injury be good for golf?
RM: There is nothing positive for golf with Tiger being out. I hope his surgery and recovery go well and he comes back stronger than ever. Golf needs him.
HERE'S THE GUY who could have changed political history. In 2004 Mike Ditka strongly considered jumping into the U.S. Senate race in Illinois after the Republican nominee dropped out, but the former Bears coach decided not to run. The man he would have been running against: Barack Obama. Ditka told me he wouldn't have won anyway. "I'm not going to bulls--- somebody about something," he said. "He may do that a little better than me." What if it were Ditka who was campaigning for the White House in '08—can you imagine what a Ditka Administration would be like? I'm trying.
• A presidential-sized humidor in the Oval Office.
• State-of-the-art blocking sleds in the Rose Garden.
• "General Petraeus, I order you to install the 46 defense."
• Chief of Staff: William (the Refrigerator) Perry.
• "All my Supreme Court picks for Ricky Williams. Final offer."
There will be something extra to talk about at this year's Army-Navy game: how the service branches handle top athletes. This spring we heard about safety Caleb Campbell, the West Point grad and Detroit Lions draft pick who will avoid overseas deployment if he sticks in the NFL. (The Army would use him as a recruiter instead.) Now comes a flip version of the story—pitcher Mitch Harris, a Naval Academy grad, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals but has been told by the Navy that he must serve his required five years. Harris would love to play baseball, but when I asked if he was proud of the Navy's priorities, he said, "Definitely. When your nation is at war, it's not something that's debatable."
Buying into Cubanomics
Mark cuban has been taking some heat for saying that he would prefer that Mavericks players Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd (right) sit out the Olympics—if they get hurt, he's the one stuck with their guaranteed contracts. "What I don't like is that we lie to ourselves and pretend it's about patriotism," Cuban told The Dallas Morning News. "It's not. It's about money." Unfortunately, he's right. This is about displaying sneaker logos in the China market and on a global stage. I wouldn't want my NBA team jeopardized for that either.
THE FINE PRINT: The Mets fired Willie Randolph and replaced him with Jerry Manuel, who will finish out the season. Then Conan O'Brien will take over in 2009.
Go to DANPATRICK.COM for more from Rocco Mediate and other recent interviews, and hear live audio of Dan's radio show, 9 a.m. to noon ET, Mon.--Fri.
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP (DITKA)
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (KIDD)
ROBERT BECK (MEDIATE)
ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER