DiMarco Comes Up Short Stands Tall

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Chris and Rich DiMarco stood at the edge of the 18th green, a grieving son and father who began to heal at the British Open.
As Chris waited to receive his runner-up prize, both of them glanced up at the gray, puffy clouds hovering above Royal Liverpool. They whispered something to each other. Chris smiled. Rich's lip quivered a bit, then he rubbed at his left eye.
Chris DiMarco
Chris DiMarco was the only player to put pressure on Tiger Woods down the stretch.
They thought of the woman who seemed to be watching down on them all week. They wondered what she would have said about this one. They wished she could have been there to give them both a big hug when it was done.
'I know my mom would be very proud of me right now,' Chris said a short time later, his emotions bubbling just beneath the surface. 'I miss her and I love her and I have great memories of her. That's the hardest part -- that I know I'll never see her again. But I know if I close my eyes, I see her.'
Norma DiMarco died suddenly on the Fourth of July during a family vacation, leaving behind her husband of 46 years and the bulldog of a son she helped mold into one of the world's best golfers.
Throughout the week, Chris felt as if he was being helped along by divine intervention. He was stunned when he got to the tee box Saturday and found out that the woman keeping score from his group was named Norma. He couldn't help but wonder what forces were at work as he played better than he has in months.
Alas, it wasn't enough to catch another golfer dealing with his own heartache. Tiger Woods had a one-stroke lead at the beginning of the day, a two-stroke advantage when it was over and hoisted the claret jug for the second year in a row.
For Woods, it was the 11th major title but the first since his beloved mentor of a dad passed away a couple of months ago following a long battle with cancer. The winner cried like he's never cried before after tapping in the final putt.
The guy who finished second knew what Woods was going through. He, too, felt the comforting hand of a lost parent as he strolled around this seaside course in northwest England.
'It just helps knowing that she was a big part out there today,' Chris DiMarco said. 'I know I'll have her with me the rest of my life.'
DiMarco still lacks a major title of his own, having lost twice in playoffs -- including a memorable duel with Woods at the 2005 Masters -- and now settling for another runner-up finish.
But he certainly has nothing to be ashamed of. He was the only contender on a leaderboard filled with star power who rose up to challenge Woods. Sergio Garcia, playing in the final group with Woods, faded badly. Ernie Els never mounted a charge. Ditto for Jim Furyk.
DiMarco bogeyed the first hole, which turned out to be his only slip-up on the way to a 4-under 68 -- one of just eight rounds in the 60s on the final day. He played the final 17 holes at 5 under and sank some huge putts, including a 25-foot birdie on No. 13 and a 50-foot par save at the next hole that had the normally reserved British fans in an uproar.
But he was chasing the greatest golfer of this -- perhaps any -- generation. Every time DiMarco got close, the leader responded. When Woods set off on a run of three straight birdies at No. 14, it was over.
'He's a hard guy to catch, I'll tell you that,' DiMarco marveled. 'He's got an uncanny ability when someone gets close to him to just turn it up to another level. I made a great putt on 14 for par, which really pumped me up, and he turns around and birdies 14, 15 and 16.'
That's OK. The DiMarco clan remembered how they felt when they arrived on this side of the Atlantic, overcome with grief and pain, and knew this was a huge first step in getting on with the rest of their lives.
'It's really been tough going for my family,' Rich DiMarco said. 'But this entire week has been a blessing. I told Chris, 'Your mother is here with you in spirit. She is here to spur you on.''
Something surely clicked for Chris this week.
He started out the year fourth in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, but hurt his back in a skiing accident, tried to come back too soon and wound up falling into all sort of bad habits. He plummeted to 21st on the Ryder list and wasn't expected to be much of a factor at Royal Liverpool.
Now, with a second-place showing in the British Open, DiMarco is back up to sixth in the points and virtually assured of playing for the Americans when they show up just across the Irish Sea a couple of months from now to take on the host Europeans.
'I'm sixth now?' DiMarco asked. 'Perfect.'
After Norma's funeral, Chris gave his ring from the 2005 President's Cup to his father, who wore it proudly on his right hand as he walked the course Sunday. Even though Chris didn't win, Rich never has been more proud of his son.
'I believe in God. I'm a man of faith,' the father said. 'I prayed so hard that this would come true. From the first putt to the last putt, I prayed so hard. And he made them from everywhere. If not for Tiger, who's the best there ever was, Chris would have a couple of majors by now.'
That said, there's no hard feelings about this unfortunate bit of timing. In the interview room, Rich DiMarco ran into Woods, who was holding the claret jug. The two stopped, shook hands and exchanged a few comforting words.
'He said, 'I know exactly what you're going through. My dad was my best friend and your wife was your best friend,'' Rich DiMarco said, having to wipe away a few more tears. 'That really made me feel good. He's a fine kid. He really is.'
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    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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    J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

    Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

    ''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

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    Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

    Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

    Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

    She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

    ''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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    Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

    Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

    ''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

    Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

    Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

    ''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

    It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

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    Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

    Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

    The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

    ''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

    PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

    Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

    ''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

    It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

    He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

    ''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

    Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

    Later, he laughed about the moment.

    ''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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    Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

    By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

    Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

    Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

    The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

    “They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

    The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

    “Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

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    Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

    “As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

    Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

    “Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.