Mediate, Gwinnett both new to Champions Tour

For the Greater Gwinnett Championship, a start like Rocco Mediate's certainly seems in order.

The 2008 U.S. Open runner-up became eligible this season for the Champions Tour and in his first event shot a 17-under par to win the Allianz Championship in Florida. In his second start, he finished in the top 5 with an 8-under in the ACE Group Classic.

"It was just one of those starts," Mediate said Monday. "You don't ever expect to go out (and win), especially in the first week back in a while on a new tour and a new group of guys. You never know when it is going to show up and it showed up pretty fast."

The Gwinnett event, in its infancy, hopes the same.

"We are very pleased with our process so far," said Stan Hall, the executive director of the tournament.

Like Mediate, this is the first year for the Champions Tour event at TPC Sugarloaf and with less than a year's lead time to prepare the field for the post-Masters tournament keeps growing. Two-time Masters winning Ben Crenshaw announced Tuesday he is playing and Mediate plans to return to Sugarloaf for the first time since the BellSouth Classic. Other notable names committed to the Greater Gwinnett Championship include, Tommy Armour III, Mark Calcavecchia, Brad Faxon, Fred Funk, Hale Irwin, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize, Larry Nelson, Mark O'Meara and Corey Pavin.

"I always like it," Mediate said of Sugarloaf. "It was a good setup. It fit my eye pretty good.

"It's a difficult walk, but that's part of the game. It think it's going to be great."

Mediate was reminded, as a Champions player, he now is allowed a riding cart. He declined.

Even as a newcomer to the Champions Tour, a series reserved for players 50-years and older, Mediate quickly dispelled assertions it was a "less-than" tour.

"My motto for the Champions Tour is 'These guys are still good,'" Mediate said, referencing a former PGA marketing slogan. "We are still good, because I am now one of them. I wasn't shocked. That's what they've been doing their whole life."

There is a slightly more relaxed atmosphere at Champions events, but for Mediate, interacting with fans always fit his personality and his game.

"We are regular people, we just play golf better than everybody else," Mediate said. "It's really not that big of a deal, you just go out and play. We are playing a game for a living.

"In between shots it doesn't take too much to say, 'Hi,' and sometimes that can change people's lives."

Friendly interaction and engaging fans doesn't lessen the competition from a host of players who spent their lives and made a career out of beating the other guy. In the first three Champions events this season the winner finished below 10-under par. And Champions Tour events are just three rounds.

"It's certainly not a hit-and-giggle place," Mediate said. "It's nasty out there and it's really cool. I love it out there and I am certain I am going to love it out there for as long as I want to play."

What: Greater Gwinnett Championships

When: April 19-21

Where: TPC Sugarloaf

Tickets: www.greatergwinnettchampionship.com