DiMarco Avoids Disaster Wins Phoenix Open

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 27, 2002, 5:00 pm
Chris DiMarco blew a four-shot lead on the back nine Sunday in Scottsdale, Ariz., but fought back for victory at the Phoenix Open.
DiMarco shot 2-under-par 69 to finish at 17-under 267, one shot clear of Kenny Perry (70) and Kaname Yokoo (64).
John Daly (70) tied Lee Janzen (64) for fourth place at 15-under. Daly earned a share of the early lead, thanks to an eagle and a birdie over his first three holes. He also recorded an eagle and a birdie over his final four holes; however, he played Nos. 5-11 in 5-over.
Overnight leader Duffy Waldorf struggled to a 2-over 73 and finished in sixth place at minus 14.
DiMarco earned $720,000 for his third career PGA Tour title, putting him atop the 2002 money list at almost $1 million. His total stands at $986,857 after four events.
DiMarco has three top-six finishes in four starts this season. He was one stroke off the 54-hole lead at the Mercedes Championships, only to bogey both par-5s down the stretch Sunday to tie for fifth.
He then finished tied for sixth at last weeks Bob Hope Chrysler Classic after hitting into the water on both the 17th and 18th holes in the final round.
It appeared another final-round failure was in the cards this Sunday.
DiMarco birdied four of his first eight holes to take a four-shot lead at 19-under. But he left his game at the turn.
He pushed his tee shot into the right rough at the par-4 11th. With a tree impeding his swing, he was able only to advance his second shot some 15 yards ' still in the rough.
He made double bogey, cutting his lead in half.
Trying to avoid the water on the right of the par-3 12th green, DiMarco next pulled his tee shot into the left-hand greenside bunker. He failed to get up and down for par. Meanwhile, Perry sank a 20-foot birdie putt ' his first of the day ' to tie for the lead at 16-under.
DiMarco again found trouble off the tee at the par-5 13th, pushing his drive into the right water hazard. He went on to make bogey, but got a bit of a reprieve when Perry missed a two-foot birdie putt.
'That really killed me,' Perry said. 'I missed a gimme.'
Leading outright for the first time, Perry was quickly caught by Yokoo, who shot a back-nine 31 to enter the clubhouse at 16-under.
DiMarco reached that number with a birdie at No. 14, yet couldnt match Perrys birdie at the par-5 15th. Perry hit the green in two shots and easily two-putted for a birdie 4. DiMarco, on the other hand, had to settle for a par, after his tee shot caromed off the cart path and settled behind a bush.
DiMarco showed a great deal of resolve on the par-3 16th. He stuck an 8-iron from 162 yards to within three feet of the hole. And just before he attempted to tie for the lead, someone in the crowd yelled, Noonan! ' a choking reference from the movie 'Caddyshack.' DiMarco stayed over his putt and rolled in the birdie effort. He then motioned for security to throw out the boisterous patron.
The final group was forced to endure a 15-minute wait on the par-4 17th, as players in front of them were taking their shots at the 332-yard hole.
During the downtime, DiMarco, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, found out his team lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots.
The same fate would not befall DiMarco.
Both he and Perry hit drivers off the tee. DiMarco came up short of the green, while Perrys ball rolled into a swell, right of the putting surface.
DiMarco pitched onto, and through the green with his second shot, but successfully saved par. Perry, though, came up 40 feet short of the hole on his second shot and three-putted for bogey.
'I don't know what you're supposed to do on that crazy hole,' Perry said. 'I was looking for the miracle shot, and it didn't happen.'
Leading by one stroke with one hole remaining, DiMarco two-putted from 45 feet for par, leaving Perry with a 30-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. He missed right.
Perry has now finished third at the Mercedes, tied for sixth at the Bob Hope and second this week. It was the third time this year he has played in the final group without winning.
Full-field scores from the Phoenix Open
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Rahm, with blinders on, within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”

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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.

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Rahm focusing on play, not shot at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

SAN DIEGO – Jon Rahm’s meteoric rise in the world rankings could end with him reaching No. 1 with a win this week at Torrey Pines.

After winning last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his fourth title in 51 weeks, Rahm has closed the gap on Dustin Johnson – less than 1.5 average points separates them.

With Johnson not playing this week, the 23-year-old Spaniard has a chance to reach the top spot for the first time, but only if he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.

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“Beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task. It’s no easy task,” he said Tuesday. “We still have four days of golf ahead and we’ll see what happens. But I’ll try to focus more on what’s going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win.

“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

Rahm has already become the fourth-youngest player to reach No. 2 in the world, behind Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. 

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Rahm: Playoff wasn't friendly, just 'nervous'

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:53 pm

SAN DIEGO – Too chummy? Jon Rahm says he and Andrew Landry were just expending some nervous energy on the walk up to the fairway during the first playoff hole of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

“I wouldn’t have been that nervous if it was friendly,” Rahm said with a smile Tuesday. “I think it was something he said because we were talking going out of the first tee.

“I didn’t know Andrew – I think it was a pretty good time to get to know him. We had at least 10 minutes to ourselves. It’s not like we were supporting each other, right? We were both in it together, we were both nervous together, and I felt like talking about it might have eased the tension out of both of us.”

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On Sunday, two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange saw the exchange on TV and tweeted: “Walking off the tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me? Talking at all?”

Strange followed up by saying that, in a head-to-head situation, the last thing he’d want to do was make his opponent comfortable. When his comments went viral, Strange tweeted at Rahm, who won after four holes: “Hopefully no offense taken on my comment yesterday. You guys are terrific. I’m a huge fan of all players today. Made an adverse comment on U guys talking during playoff. Not for me. A fan.”

Not surprisingly, the gregarious Rahm saw things differently.

“We only talked going out of the first tee up until the fairway,” he said. “Besides that, all we said was, ‘Good shot, good putt, see you on the next tee.’ That’s what it was reduced to. We didn’t say much.” 

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Tiger grouped with Reed, Hoffman at Torrey Pines

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 8:35 pm

SAN DIEGO – Tiger Woods will make his 2018 debut alongside Patrick Reed and Charley Hoffman.

The threesome will go off Torrey Pines’ South Course at 1:40 p.m. ET Thursday at the Farmers Insurance Open. They begin at 12:30 p.m. Friday on the North Course.

Woods is an eight-time winner at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, but he hasn’t broken 70 in his last seven rounds on either course. Last year, he shot rounds of 76-72 to miss the cut.

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Reed, who has grown close to Woods after being in his pod during the past two international team competitions, is coming off a missed cut last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Hoffman, a San Diego native, has only two top-10s in 20 career starts at Torrey.

Other featured groups for the first two rounds include:

• Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker: 1:30 p.m. Thursday off South 1, 12:20 p.m. Friday off North 10

• Rickie Fowler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele: 12:30 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:30 p.m. Friday off South 1

• Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama: 12:40 p.m. Thursday off North 10, 1:40 p.m. Friday off South 1