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DiMarco Shines at Presidents Cup

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GEORGE, South Africa -- With so much focus on the Tiger Woods-Ernie Els playoff in the Presidents Cup, and the bizarre tie that came out of it, some remarkable play and a few unlikely failures were overlooked.
 
Chris DiMarco had a week to remember.
 
He was left off the Ryder Cup team after finishing 11th in the standings. This was his first team competition, and it followed a season in which he failed to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 1999.
 
DiMarco thrived.
 
Midway through the Sunday singles, it was clear he had to win his match against Stuart Appleby for the United States to have any chance of winning.
 
Appleby twice had short birdie putts, only to halve the hole when DiMarco made birdies from across the green. Coming to the 15th, DiMarco was 1 down.
 
'We were going to 15 and I said to my caddie, 'They need our match. Let's go,'' he said.
 
DiMarco hit his approach into 15 feet, and Appleby hit into the hazard. Both hit great chips on the par-5 16th to halve with birdies, then headed to the 17th, the scariest par-3 on the Links Course at Fancourt.
 
'I'd spit if I could,' DiMarco told caddie Pat O'Brien.
 
He could swing just fine, drilling a 7-iron to 8 feet. DiMarco holed the putt for a 1-up lead, then closed out his roller-coaster match - each player had the lead three times - with a par on the final hole.
 
Everyone knew Kenny Perry was playing the best during the practice rounds. Some of his drives traveled close to 400 yards, and his irons were like lasers.
 
Perry won four out of his five matches, the best record on the U.S. team. With his legs weary and the pressure on, he hit a perfect drive and a clutch 3-iron into 12 feet for a birdie to beat Nick Price, another pivotal point.
 
Tiger Woods might have found a partner in Charles Howell III, who played exceptionally well all five matches and helped the U.S. comeback Sunday by blitzing Adam Scott in a battle of young stars.
 
The failures?
 
Phil Mickelson played hard - all of his matches went to at least the 17th hole - but missed enough fairways and was overly aggressive on enough chips to put him or his team in trouble. Lefty went 0-5, the first American to get shut out in five matches.
 
Then there was Davis Love III, the emotional leader of the U.S. team. He accompanied Jeff Sluman to the first day of pairings, said all the right things about the Presidents Cup and was poised to be the star when he took a 1-up lead on Robert Allenby.
 
Love, however, muffed a chip from a difficult lie short of the 18th green when a birdie would have given the U.S. team 17 1/2 points and eliminated the need for a playoff.
 
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NEXT UP:@ The Presidents Cup returns to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia in 2005, and all signs point to Canada for the next international stop.
 
The tour is close to announcing Royal Montreal as the 2007 site, although there are a few loose ends to tie.
 
Another issue is the Canadian Open, which traditionally is played in early September. That would be about two weeks before the Presidents Cup.
 
'We have to take the Open into the consideration,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'When it's played is a matter of discussion.'
 
Where the Canadian Open is played could be another factor.
 
One reason for the Presidents Cup going to Royal Montreal is that the '07 Canadian Open is scheduled for Angus Glen in the Toronto area.
 
After that? The tour still wants to take the Presidents Cup to the West Coast so it can be on prime-time television.
 
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JACK'S FUTURE:@ Jack Nicklaus isn't completely retired from competitive golf, but this year was an eye-opener.
 
His best tournament was the Tradition, a major on the Champions Tour. Nicklaus was never a factor and tied for 10th.
 
'When I play my best tournament and tie for 10th, it's time to hang up my spikes,' Nicklaus said.
 
He said he'll probably play a few Champions Tour events early in the year, and the Golden Bear also plans to return to the Masters and his Memorial tournament. He also wants to play a PGA Tour event in Florida before the Masters, possibly the Honda Classic.
 
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PRICE WAS RIGHT:@ Mike Weir wanted to play with Nick Price in the Presidents Cup, and he got his wish. Weir hit spectacular shots and clutch putts as they rallied to win their alternate-shot match in the opening round.
 
A decade ago, Weir never would have dreamed that possible.
 
He was just starting out on the Canadian Tour and received an invitation to the Canadian Open. Hitting balls on the range, he heard the crisp connection of iron and ball coming from Price's direction, and realized it wasn't anything like his.
 
'That's when I knew I had to make changes to my swing,' Weir said. 'He was hitting lasers. I was hitting it all over the range.'
 
Price was at the peak of his game in the early '90s, on the verge of winning three out of eight majors in one stretch.
 
'I thought, 'If we played 100 times, this guy would beat me 100 times,' Weir said. 'Not 99 times, but 100.'
 
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DIVOTS:@ Ty Tryon took the fast track to his career by earning his PGA Tour card two years ago at age 17. Now comes the hard part. He failed to get through the second stage of Q-school and will have only conditional status on the Nationwide Tour next year. ... Don't get the idea the gallery was all warm and fuzzy at the Presidents Cup. One man muttered, 'Miss' as Phil Mickelson knocked in a 4-foot birdie putt. Another said, 'Release' when Charles Howell III hit an approach 25 feet beyond the flag. And there was a smattering of applause when Tiger Woods' second shot to the 18th came up short of the green. Still, it wasn't a group effort, and there always are a few bad eggs at every team event.
 
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STAT OF THE WEEK:@ Chris DiMarco played 88 holes at the Presidents Cup, the most of any other player. Four of his matches were decided on the final hole; the other ended on the 16th.
 
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FINAL WORD:@ 'I'm not new to the format. I'm new to the age.' - Colin Montgomerie, playing in the UBS Cup for the first time. The minimum age is 40.