Bright Future But No Guarantees for DiMarco

By Associated PressApril 12, 2005, 4:00 pm
PGA TourChris DiMarco had a satellite truck parked outside his house and a long list of television and radio interviews to do, the kind of treatment usually afforded a Masters champion.
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.''
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.
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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.