DiMarco having fun on comeback quest;GOLF
Chris DiMarco knows all about cavorting with golf’s elite, from
tussling with Tiger Woods at the
Masters to winning matches in the
Ryder Cup to climbing as high as No. 6 in the world rankings.
DiMarco also knows all about slogging along in the pack, playing
in under-the-radar Fall Series tournaments hoping to simply stay on
the PGA Tour.
That’s the DiMarco who showed up at this week’s Frys.com Open at
CordeValle in San Martin. So even when his 4-foot birdie putt
rimmed out on his final hole of Thursday’s opening round, DiMarco
happily signed for a 4-under-par 67.
It was enough to plant him in a welcome, vaguely familiar spot:
on the leaderboard, three shots off the pace. Rocco Mediate led the
way at 7-under 64 on the picturesque course in the foothills south
of San Jose, with Bo Van Pelt, Ryuji Imada and Paul Goydos posting
DiMarco, given his onetime run as a frequent contender on the
game’s grandest stages, headlined the group chasing Mediate.
DiMarco finished in the top 20 on the money list for six
consecutive years 2000-05, punctuated by his memorable duel with
Woods in the final round of the ’05 Masters.
Remember when Woods sank his improbable, twisting chip shot on
No. 16 at Augusta National, with the ball pausing on the lip before
disappearing? DiMarco stood on the green, watching in dismay as his
deficit grew to two shots. He eventually fell to Woods on the first
DiMarco had his moments in 2006 – notably finishing second to
Woods, again, in the British Open – but then he fell off the map.
He hasn’t cracked the top 100 on the money list the past three
years, and he enters this week’s event at No. 164.
“The game was no fun early this year, or the last few years,”
DiMarco said Thursday. “When you find yourself wanting to be home
more than playing, that’s not good. But now I’m enjoying going to
the course again.”
DiMarco, now 42 and with specks of gray in his goatee, had
surgery on his left shoulder at the end of 2008, but his descent
started before then. He concentrated on his long game for a while,
to the detriment of his short game. He hit some wayward shots and
More than anything, maybe, he became too comfortable with his
place in the golf galaxy. DiMarco came to expect high finishes and
big paychecks, until they suddenly stopped – he has only three
top-10 finishes in 104 starts since the start of 2007.
“When you’re up there playing well, you always expect to do
that,” he said. “The problem is if you take golf for granted, this
game will bite you.”
DiMarco didn’t play any majors this year, reflective of his
diminishing status. But he finds hope in some encouraging
performances this summer and in his relentless accuracy off the tee
Thursday, when he hit 13 of 14 fairways.
He has three career wins, but none since 2002.
“I don’t feel like I’m done winning tournaments or competing in
majors,” DiMarco said.