The 32-year-old Masters rookie, who played the course for the first time three days ago, carded eight birdies to just one bogey for a 7-under-par 65, and the first-round lead in the 65th Masters Tournament.
I dont think anybody expects me to win, he said, except me.
Chris DiMarco talks about his 1st round lead
After two days of rain, a softened Augusta National course was susceptible to red numbers.
Steve Stricker and Argentine Angel Cabrera are each just one shot back of DiMarco after rounds of 6-under-par 66. Tour veterans Phil Mickelson, Lee Janzen and John Huston are one shot further down the leaderboard after rounds of 67.
DiMarco isnt the lone first-timer making noise in Augusta, Ga. 2000 U.S. Amateur runner-up James Driscoll made his Masters debut by carding a 4-under-par 68 to finish the first round in a tie for seventh.
The 23-year-old University of Virginia product finished his impressive start by holing a delicate bunker shot for birdie at the par-3 16th.
No expectations, said Driscoll. I didnt think of the outcome of any shots. I just tried to look at the shots, see what I had and tried to pull it off.
James Driscoll talks about his Rd. 1 68
Right about the time DiMarco walked into the clubhouse, the pre-tournament favorite stepped onto the course. Tiger Woods overcame a bogey at the 1st to record a 2-under-par 70. Hes five off the 18-hole lead, and one shot back of defending champion Vijay Singh, who opened in 69.
DiMarco is trying to join Fuzzy Zoeller (1979) as the only two men in the modern era to win the green jacket in their first appearance.
His first round was highlighted by four birdies in a five-hole stretch beginning at the par-4 5th. After making the turn in 4-under-par 32, DiMarco played Amen Corner in 2-under, and then added one final birdie at the par-5 15th to finish his day at 7-under.
My strategy was to stay patient but still be aggressive in spots and do nothing crazy, said DiMarco. My patience was good. I never got ahead of myself.
Twelve years after turning professional, DiMarco finally earned a spot in the elite Masters field by finishing 19th on last years PGA Tour money list.
2000 was a banner year for the 32-year-old Florida Gator. He collected his maiden victory at the SEI Pennsylvania Classic to go along with over $1.8 million in official earnings.
DiMarco has continued to produce in 2001. Hes made eight cuts in ten starts, including a pair of top-10 finishes. At last weeks BellSouth Classic down the road in Duluth, DiMarco shared the 36-hole lead, but shot 73-77 on a 36-hole Sunday to tie for sixth.
The BellSouth was really good because it got me ready for here, he said. It got me ready for the speed (of the greens).
The Masters greenhorn needed only 25 putts on the slick, yet damp, surface on Thursday.
However, no one is asking DiMarco about his coat size just yet. The first-round tournament leader hasnt won since Ben Crenshaw went wire-to-wire in 1984.
DiMarco is also trying to avoid a recent rookie hex. This is the third straight year a first-time player has led after 18 holes. Two years ago, Brandel Chamblee shot 69 to share the first-round lead. He then failed to break 70 over his next three rounds to finish in a tie for 18th. Dennis Paulson followed suit in 2000, shooting 68 to lead after Day One, only to card rounds of 76-73-72 to tie for 14th.
Both Stricker and Cabrera have had success this season. Stricker captured the $1 million first-place prize at the season-opening WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, while Cabrera won last weeks Argentina Open.
Both men also have another thing in common ' near misses in past majors. Stricker finished runner-up to Singh in the 1998 PGA Championship. Cabrera came inches short of making the playoff in the 1999 British Open.
Stricker, Woods and Janzen talk about the 1st round
Mickelson has had his share of close calls in majors. He entered this week with a new approach 'tempered aggressiveness.
In a year filled with erratic scores, the lefty notched six birdies to just one bogey. He completed his round by carding a 4-under-par 32 on the back nine.
I waited till I felt good with my swing before I attacked the hole, Mickelson said. Today was the day to score low if you were going to score low. Im sure its going to get progressively more difficult as the week goes on.
Woods didnt get the most out of his round on Thursday, but he more than kept alive his opportunity to win his fourth consecutive major championship.
Tigers day began auspiciously with a bogey at the par-4 1st. He bounced back with three birdies to make the turn in 2-under 34, but again made bogey at the par-4 10th when his 3-foot par save did a 180-degree spin around the edge of the cup.
Woods then played his final eight holes in 1-under to finish the day five back of DiMarco.
This is a major championship. Its four days, said Woods, who birdied only one par-5 in the first round. Everyone knows its awfully hard to go out there and shoot in the mid-60s every day.
While Tiger seeks to further his legend, another capped his at Augusta National. Byron Nelson hit his final ceremonial tee shot on Thursday.
Okay, little ball, said the 89-year-old Nelson on the tee box. One more time.
Nelson faded his shot some 150 yards down the right side of the fairway. It was the final shot for the 1937 and 1942 Masters champion.
Nelson and Snead kick off the 65th Masters
Nelson made his first Masters appearance in 1935 and has been back every year since except one.
This has helped keep me alive in golf, he said.
News, Notes and Numbers
*33 players broke par in the first round. The Masters record for most sub-par scores in the first round is 35, set in 1992.
*Chris DiMarcos 65 was the lowest first-round score since Greg Norman shot 63 in 1996.
*Norman, a three-time Masters runner-up, shot 1-under-par 71. Hes tied for 21st with Davis Love III, David Duval and Ernie Els.
*Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer played in the same threesome for the second straight year. Nicklaus, 61, and Player, 65, each shot 1-over-par 73s. Palmer, 71, shot 10-over-par 82.
*Past Masters champions fared well in the first round. Aside from Singh and Woods, 1998 champion Mark OMeara shot a 3-under-par 69, while two-time Masters victor Jose Maria Olazabal (94 and 99) opened in 70.
*James Driscoll's 68 is two shots off the tournament low score by an amateur. His front-nine 32 ties an amateur record.
Full Coverage of the 2001 Masters Tournament