Rocco Mediate rolled in a putt on 18 for his second consecutive birdie to complete a final-round 64 and win the Sanford International by two strokes on Sunday at Minnehaha Country Club.
Mediate, now a four-time PGA Tour Champions winner, started the day six shots behind the leaders. After completing the front nine at 2-under, he went on to birdie Nos. 12, 14, 17 and 18 on the way to his first title since 2016.
The crowd surrounding the 18th hole had a very good-natured and chatty champion on its hands. He commended the volunteers, sponsors Sanford Health and Cambria, his caddie and several others in the minutes after tournament host Andy North handed him the trophy.
“It was just one of those days where everything kind of went really good,” he said. “When I was bad, I got it up and down. When I was good, I made putts.”
Mediate a crowd favorite
Throughout the week, the 56-year-old Mediate was one of the more engaging golfers on the course. He was smiling even at those times over the 54 holes when it was difficult to do so. Late Sunday afternoon, he had little reason to be doing anything else.
“I like talking,” he said. “Or I like being talked to. I like talking to people out here. They were really great, really good crowds here, exceptional crowds. Even last year with the bad weather they were still out here. So this place loves it and obviously we’ll be here for a while. It’s good stuff.”
Mediate’s title was his first since winning the Senior PGA Championship in 2016. The win came with a pair of hats designed by his 4-year-old daughter Francesca and a pair shoes that defied description. Sunday’s black hat in this case was worth back-to-back birdies to end a week that won him $270,000.
Francesca, the hat designer
“Francesca, that’s my daughter, she did this for me,” Mediate said, referring to the black hat. “We have a white one, too. The rose G4 shoes — I was looking in the catalog and I saw the rose shoes and I went ‘Francesca Rose, I’ve got to get shoes for her.’ And see, I don’t care if people don’t like them. I’m wearing them anyway.”
Ken Duke, an Arkansas native who is in his first year of PGA Tour Champions competition, was a co-leader with Kirk Triplett going into the third round and was in or near the lead throughout the round on Sunday. He double-bogeyed the last hole, however, and finished in a tie with Bob Estes and Colin Montgomerie at 7-under.
Duke’s tee shot jumped just off the fairway and settled into a difficult spot. His attempt to recover missed the green and his bid for his first PGA Tour Champions title went with it.
“It was probably one of the worst lies I’ve ever had,” he said. “I mean, what are you going to do after that? Nothing you can do about it. I played good. Thanks for all the people who came out. It was great to be here.”