Bright Future But No Guarantees for DiMarco
DiMarco was only the runner-up.
The guy with the green jacket -- Tiger Woods -- was on the other side of town in Orlando, Fla., meeting VIPs from Accenture, one of his sponsors, for a Monday outing planned long before he won his fourth Masters.
Rarely does second place draw so much attention.
``I went out and shot 68 around here on Sunday, which is a very good round. And 12 under is usually good enough to win,'' DiMarco said after his playoff loss. ``I just was playing against Tiger Woods.''
That's what made this runner-up finish so compelling. That's why the loudest cheers were for DiMarco along the back nine at Augusta National, and even during the closing ceremony, when Woods paid tribute to ``one heck of a competitor out there.''
It was almost an afterthought during the final round that DiMarco had been here before -- not just in the final group at the Masters, but in a playoff at a major. Seven months ago at Whistling Straits, he missed an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the PGA Championship, then lost in a three-way playoff to Vijay Singh.
But that was different.
Justin Leonard should have won the PGA except for a balky putter. DiMarco slipped into contention with a 1-under 71, the only player among the final 11 groups who broke par on a vicious course. The memory of DiMarco from Whistling Straits is that he had a birdie putt on the 18th hole and left it short.
He was the model of grit and determination at the Masters.
DiMarco shot 41 on the back nine Sunday morning to finish his third round, turning a four-shot lead into a three-shot deficit to a player who had never lost the lead in the final round of a major.
No one gave him a chance.
It was a two-man race from the start, and DiMarco never backed down. Despite giving up 80 yards at times off the tee, DiMarco was inside Woods for birdie on all but five holes. He was aggressive, fearless. He tried to make birdies on his last two holes and left himself 6 feet for par, then made both those to force a playoff.
This was quite a change from last year at Augusta National, when he was tied for the lead with Phil Mickelson going into the last round and shot 76 to quickly take himself out of contention.
``I don't think I was ready to win,'' DiMarco said. ``This year, I was ready to win. I really felt like I could win it. And coming out the way I did, I will be ready to win next year.''
What about the next major?
There already is some thought that DiMarco should move to the top of the list as the ``best player to have never won a major,'' but only because his final round is still fresh.
DiMarco has only won three times in his 10 years on the PGA Tour, none against particularly strong fields. There's a reason for that.
He had at least joined some exclusive company Sunday, even if it's not the kind he wants to keep.
Not since Tom Watson at the 1978 PGA Championship and 1979 Masters has someone lost back-to-back major championships in a playoff. Craig Wood is the only other player with that distinction, having lost in 38 holes in the finals of the 1934 PGA Championship, then in a 36-hole playoff to Gene Sarazen at the 1935 Masters.
Sarazen got into the playoff with a shot that put the Masters on the map -- a 4-wood for double eagle on the 15th. Woods ultimately got into a playoff with a shot for the ages. His chip behind the 16th green made a U-turn at the top of the slope, came to a full stop at the edge of the cup and then got the green light from above, dropping in for birdie.
DiMarco is the first player since Tom Lehman to play in the final group of a major at least two straight years without winning. Lehman was in the last group at four straight U.S. Opens, and had at least a share of the lead in three of them.
Now, DiMarco must be careful to avoid joining the wrong crowd.
``I think I proved to a lot of people that I can play under the heat,'' the runner-up said.
That wasn't DiMarco, though.
Those words came from Bob May after he matched Woods shot-for-shot in high drama at Valhalla in the 2000 PGA Championship, the only other major Woods won in a playoff.
Golf is loaded with players who show their mettle in a major, but end their career as just another runner-up. Ed Sneed at the Masters. Mike Donald at the U.S. Open. Brain Watts at the British Open. Mike Reid at the PGA.
Even multiple close calls in a major doesn't guarantee anything, as Colin Montgomerie and Chip Beck can attest.
DiMarco has proved to be a top-rate golfer. He has played in the Tour Championship the last five years. He won a crucial singles match at the Presidents Cup, and was the only American with a winning record at the Ryder Cup last fall.
``There is no back off in him,'' Woods said.
There is no major championship on his resume, either, at least not yet.
DiMarco wants to be known for more than giving the No. 1 player in the world the fight of his life on the grandest stage in golf. He is universally respected today. He might be part of a trivia question tomorrow.
Only a major can change that.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.