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Rocco Mediate hoping for injury free 2005

Rocco Mediate is fully aware where he is in his life and career, and is not particularly happy about it. But he's also not sitting around worrying about his situation.

After finishing 176th on the money list, winning $257,692 and making only eight cuts in 19 starts, the Greensburg native came to the realization that the time had come for drastic measures.

His chronically ailing back and hip had plagued him throughout 2004, playing a big part in him missing 10 cuts, withdrawing from one tournament after a round and not starting in another in which he was entered.

"As I was driving home from Tampa (the Chrysler Championship in October), I was trying to figure out who I could speak to about my back, my swing, my game," Mediate said. "I called Leonard Thompson (former PGA Tour player) and told him I needed to talk to Jimmy."

Jimmy, in this case, is Jimmy Ballard, a swing coach and consultant to a number of premier golfers and Golf Magazine's 1980s Teacher of the Decade, who's located at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla.

The connection was made, Mediate has been to see Ballard three times, and his outlook has changed considerably.

"The main thing, he's teaching me is how to use my body in an efficient way so I don't hurt all the time," Mediate said. "The way I was swinging was putting a lot of pressure on certain points, and they eventually failed. I'm changing a lot of things, mostly stuff that's not visible right now. This is going to be a work in progress, something that's going to take a long time. But this isn't just changing for this year, this is changing for the rest of my life. I really had no choice. I couldn't take it anymore."

Mediate, who celebrated his 42nd birthday last week, has made some modifications in his swing and has either practiced or played for a month and a half straight without problems.

"I've hit thousands of balls over the last 45 days, and I have no problems, no pain; I can get out of bed in the morning without hurting," he said.

From Ballard's standpoint, he doesn't envision a lot of difficult work for Mediate in order to become a contender on Tour again.

"I always thought Rocco had a pretty good swing as far as the basics of what I believe," Ballard said. "I saw him when he won at Doral and in my mind, Rocco is a top-notch player."

Ballard said Mediate had gotten to a point with his swing that he wasn't able to consistently make solid contact. But he believes that problem to be only temporary.

"What we're going with Rocco is not a long-term thing, although it will be good for him in the long run," he said. "Some guys I've had have gone right out and won. Listen, Rocco knows how to play golf. He's been putting a lot of pressure on his back, but we think we've gotten him something that he can understand and trust and I expect him to be back out there strong."

Mediate will be out there, but his participation this year on the PGA Tour will be a bit different than in other years. Mediate, along with John Cook, Tom Kite and Billy Mayfair will be using a one-time exemption for players in the top 50 all-time money leaders. (Mediate is 38th on that list with $11,361,822 in official money earned).

"I don't know about expectations," he said. "I'm optimistic about the new year, but at the same time I'm concerned. I do know that if I can get into contention again, I'm not afraid to do it (win). I'm not concerned about my body. It's getting back in the hunt again. It's almost like starting over again."

He'll start his 2005 on Tour at the FBR Open (Phoenix), an event he's won once and played very well in almost every year. He's scheduled to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the Nissan Open, the Ford Championship at Doral and the Honda Classic.

Mediate is exempt into PGA Tour events with the exception of the four majors and the Players Championship, Colonial Invitational, Memorial Tournament and Bay Hill Invitational.

"The carrot is out there in front of me (getting his regular PGA card back), and you know how much I like carrots," he said. "It's going to take some time, but that's not a problem as long as I don't hurt all the time."

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