Time for DiMarco to Take Advantage

By Kraig KannApril 29, 2005, 4:00 pm
As I see it, Chris DiMarco has his chance. Fresh off the greatest pressure performance of his career to date, and rested after a few weeks off, this week in New Orleans DiMarco has a huge opportunity before him once again.
Heading into Fridays second round and the weekend at the Zurich Championship of New Orleans, DiMarco held a share of the lead at 7-under-par. And while its easy to remember Chris and his terrific play at Augusta National earlier this month, its tough to remember that his last PGA Tour win came in 2002. Thats right ' 2002. In Phoenix no less ' a lid-lifter if you will on the PGA Tour schedule - played when most of the PGA Tour elite are just breaking in the newest pair of shoes.
Chris DiMarco
Is Chris DiMarco ready to prove he's one of the big fish in the PGA Tour sea?
So its been three years and then some since Chris entered the winners circle at the highest level. And that alone is tough to imagine given his runs at the Masters, his near miss last year at the PGA Championship, his spot on the last Presidents Cup team and also the last Ryder Cup team.
A few weeks' ago, just days after the Masters, I talked about Tiger Woods being the star of all stars on the PGA Tour. But in the same breath I also talked about DiMarco having arrived at star status after his tremendous Augusta performance.
Chris DiMarcos stock is on the rise ' no doubt about it. Hes as tough as they come. He gets more out of his given ability than most anyone in the game. And hes not afraid to tell you how confident he is. I like that.
While DiMarco has just three PGA Tour titles to his credit, many feel that his next three might just include a couple of majors. Think about it. I know he does.
So this week, its just regular old New Orleans. But as I see it, its a huge window of opportunity for Chris to keep himself on the front page if you will. A win this week keeps everyone talking about the Masters performance. A so-so weekend gives people reason to forget and think only about when Tiger will return to action.
I actually think DiMarco is ready for big things. More ready than ever before. And more ready than ever for what could and will happen if he really does take advantage of things.
Once a journeyman looking for a putting stroke and a bit of security in this game, DiMarco now appears to be a man on a journey to start amassing titles and majors. How many and how soon are the questions that have us looking to find answers.
Heres an interesting note on Chris while he was on hiatus for the past two weeks: A little fishing trip with his buddies resulted in perhaps the biggest catch hes made since the FBR Open win in Phoenix back in 2002. DiMarco reeled in a 35-40 pound redfish among friends to help win a little 4-man best boat tournament. As the story goes, DiMarco had never seen a redfish in person. Now hes got fish stories to tell for years and a picture from the local Orlando paper to prove it.
Now, after casting himself into contention again, we find out if DiMarco is ready to reel in his fourth PGA Tour title and keep momentum on his side.
Believe him, he could use a few wins heading into the next three major championships and the Presidents Cup which will definitely hold a spot for him.
By the way, the man DiMarco found himself tied with after Round 1 owes a good bit of thanks to DiMarco himself.
Arjun Atwal, the second-year PGA Tour pro from Calcutta, India, was listed as the 23rd alternate on Monday at the BellSouth Classic just as he was spending his honeymoon with wife Ritika in Bali.
You remember threatening weather in Georgia that week cast doubt, not only over the completion of the tournament, but also put a fear-factor into the minds of players like DiMarco and Steve Flesch, who werent about to stray from a long-planned practice schedule for the Masters. Well, Atwals parents warned him of the storms and dropped a hint that he might want to make his way back to the United States where he has a home.
Atwal, who finished 146th on the PGA Tour money list as a rookie in 2004, made it all count - cashing in to the tune of $330,000. And the first from India to have won on the European Tour has apparently found his way just a bit. Seven worldwide wins for Atwal ' now maybe a first is in the cards on the PGA Tour.
At any rate, to me this is DiMarcos big week. The week that could really launch him on the PGA Tour. The week that can make the tough Masters defeat an even bigger victory. The week he angles himself into permanent conversation about the PGA Tours biggest fish.
Lets see if DiMarco can make it happen. He can.... can't he?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”