Pro golfer Rocco Mediate to play in World Series of Poker

He stood at Pinehurst, more than half of the final round of the U.S. Open behind him. He had just moved within four shots of the lead. He was a mere eight holes away from the possibility that he might just win the whole thing. Winning would've put a million dollar check in his pocket. The ensuing endorsements would be worth millions more.

Rocco Mediate would tell his friends later--after taking some time to absorb a couple of unfortunate holes and his 2005 U.S. Open sixth place finish--that he would soon be playing for much more money than either first place or the endorsements could ever pay.

Had I been one of his buddies, perhaps I would've raised en eyebrow or two. After all, with the exception of, say, The Masters, you don't get much bigger than the U.S. Open. Had Rocco found some high-dollar underground golf tournament that the PGA didn't know about?

Of course not.

He'd just found a different game.

Rocco, meet Raymer. Raymer, meet Rocco.

Sports Illustrated called Rocco's house this morning. It seemed perfectly logical. After all, Mediate had just moved up to #117 on the PGA money list and had come tantalizing close to winning the U.S. Open. What's more, he earned himself a spot at next year's U.S. Open and Masters.

But as Rocco talked with the magazine writer, the conversation drifted in a different but familiar direction. They talked poker.

In the past few months, Mediate has been playing on and, like the rest of the world, he's hooked.

"I watch golf sometimes, but I don't watch sports," Mediate said. "But whenever poker is on TV, I watch it."

And whenever he has some free time, he plays it.

Now, some folks may not know this, but PokerStars own Greg Raymer likes to hit the links sometimes. It seemed inevitable that a relationship could grow.

So, next week, Rocco Mediate will be coming here to Vegas to play in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, courtesy of Raymer will give him some tips on poker, and Mediate will offer Raymer a few tips on golf.

Now, before you skeptics start thinking I'm building Mediate into the next poker champion, you should hear from Mediate himself.

"I'm not one of those pretender types of guys," he said this morning. "I almost won at Pinehurst and I don't think I'm going to win at the World Series of Poker."

Nonetheless, as his arrival date grows closer and closer, Mediate is already ready to be here.

When I was growing up, my dad was a golfing, guitar playing, poker player. My brother got the golf skills. I got the guitar skills. We shared the poker skills. As we've talked over the years, we've come to agree that there are a lot of the same mental trials and tribulations in poker as there are in golf.

Since I had a chance to talk to a pro golfer who is getting into poker, I couldn't help but ask Mediate what he thought.

"In golf it's about controlling your emotions," he said. "It's the same in cards. I play golf 100% by feel. No mechanics. No checklists. I don't know if this is good, but I play cards the same way. I know what I feel. The future will tell whether that's worth anything at all."

Look for Rocco Mediate in Vegas beginning next week, as the professional golfer takes his first swing at professional poker.