Notes Defending Champion Still Glowing

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Joey Sindelars first trip to a tournament in 14 years as the defending champion got off to an auspicious start.
 
A luxury limousine'he estimated the length at 75 feet'arrived at his hotel Wednesday morning to drive him to Quail Hollow Country Club, where he met with reporters and relived his surprising victory in last years Wachovia Championship. It was the latest in a year full of memories for the 47-year-old veteran, who had a difficult time explaining what winning at this point in his career meant to him.
 
Its everything that we couldnt fit in in the next several hours, Sindelar said. You know, any victory that I would have had after that many years would have been, in fact, a major for me, and to then have the next win be this is just incredible icing on the cake.
 
Once one of the up-and-coming stars on the PGA Tour, he won the 1990 Hardees Golf Classic for his sixth victory in six seasons, a run that included three top-15 finishes on the money list. Sindelars game slowly deteriorated over the next several years, and he even dropped out of the top 125 in 2000 when he missed the cut in 16 of 30 starts.
 
A pair of runner-up finishes the next two seasons got him back on the exempt list, and he broke through in the Wachovia to snap a victory drought that lasted 370 tournaments. Sindelar beat Arron Oberholser on the second playoff hole'besting a field that also included Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson'and it was so special to Sindelar that he placed the trophy in a spot at his house where he often sees it.
 
We had a really good time steadily for the first month, going, We took Vijay down, we took Tiger down, Mickelson was nothing, Sindelar said. That was our breakfast conversation most mornings.
 
But on a very serious note, Ill always remember, the guys have been entirely kind in saying this was not just some tournament. Look at the field. Thats why that trophy has not gone back with the other trophies in the house.
 
The result was appreciated among his peers.
 
It was a very popular win amongst the other players, because Joey is so well-liked, Mickelson said. We consider him to be such an incredible player who has gone through some rough patches with his game, surprisingly. For him to come out and win, it was very popular with the guys.
 
DIMARCOS PAIN IN THE NECK
One of the best stretches of Chris DiMarcos career has run into an unexpected setback.
 
A neck injury that he suspects began while he watched TV from an awkward angle during Masters week might force DiMarco to withdraw before the first round of the Wachovia Championship. He skipped the Pro-Am on Wednesday and planned to get treatment throughout the day and again Thursday morning.
 
X-rays came back negative for any bone or nerve damage, so DiMarco will just have to wait until it heals. If the pain doesnt go away, he wont play.
 
If I dont feel like I can give it 100 percent and compete at my best level, Im not going to go out there and do it, DiMarco said. Theres too many tournaments left in the year, and Im swinging really good at the ball right now. The last thing I want to do is go out there with any kind of pain while Im swinging because its going to create a bad move to compensate for that pain.
 
Hes fifth on the money list with more than $1.8 million, and he already has two second-place finishes, including that playoff loss to Tiger Woods at the Masters. After taking two weeks off following the disappointment at Augusta, DiMarco returned last week in New Orleans, where a three-putt bogey on the 72nd hole left him one shot short of another playoff.
 
Still, he tied for third and pocketed $319,000.
 
Im certainly disappointed I didnt win, DiMarco said.
 
Thats the only thing Im disappointed in. Im not disappointed in the way I played.
 
Now he just hopes he has another chance this week.
 
Im not going to take the place of somebody whos 100 percent healthy that can go out and play if I dont feel like I can compete here, DiMarco said.
 
LICKLITERS NEW PROGRAM
Frank Lickliter and Cameron Beckman hosted a clinic for U.S. troops in South Korea last year, and Lickliter made another trip to Cuba to visit soldiers.
 
The visits left a lasting impression on Lickliter, and he plans to show his support through the Wounded Warriors Program, a project of VetsFirst, Inc., a new nonprofit organization based in Roanoke, Va., that helps injured soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
Lickliters golf bag sports patches from various military units in those countries, and he plans to auction off the bag to raise money for Wounded Warriors. He also will make donations himself'including 5 percent of his winnings at certain tournaments'and the effort starts this week in the Wachovia Championship.
 
The last thing we want to do is forget about these guys, considering what theyve sacrificed for us'the time, the energy, and their bodies, Lickliter said. We want them to be recognized and thanked and taken care of the way they should be.
 
The trips to South Korea and Cuba arent the only connections Lickliter has to the armed forces. His grandfather fought in the Spanish-American War, and his father was responsible for taking pictures of Russian transport ships while in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
 
Ive got several good friends that are in the service, and to me, as an American, as a patriot, I love being an American, Lickliter said. It does not get any better than this, right here.
 
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