On the DiMarco
Yes, the time had come for DiMarco to finally step into the PGA Tour's winner's circle. And fittingly enough, he did so at the inaugural SEI Pennsylvania Classic.
DiMarco carded a final-round 2-under-par 69 for a six-shot victory over Scott Hoch, Brad Elder, Jonathan Kaye, Chris Perry and Mark Calcavecchia. A decade removed from his outstanding collegiate career, DiMarco finally earned his first PGA Tour title.
The road less traveled is often covered in stones. Yet, in golf, that bumpy road is more oft traversed than not.
A brilliant amateur career means nothing on the professional level. DiMarco, like many others, found that out the hard way.
A Tour rookie in 1994, DiMarco finished 85th on the money list. The future was promising. Then came 1995. DiMarco endured the dreaded sophomore slump. He finished 174th in earnings and lost his Tour card.
'I had a terrible year (in 1995),' DiMarco recalled. 'It was mostly putting. I was not putting well at all. At the end of the year, I played in a mini-tour event and I was not playing well. And Skip Kendall showed me something, `look at this (putting) grip.'
'And I looked at him and told him, `You're crazy,' but I tried it and it kind of resurrected me.'
DiMarco had no official-playing status in 1996, but he did have a new putting grip, and with it, a new sense of confidence.
'I knew I was as good as anybody out here from tee-to-green,' said DiMarco. 'It was just a matter of getting the ball into the hole.'
In 1997, DiMarco used his 'claw-like' grip to finish third on the then-NIKE Tour. He even collected a victory at the Ozarks Open. Twenty-nine years old at the time, DiMarco had earned another shot in the big leagues.
DiMarco had a solid season in 1998. He picked up a pair of top-10s and finished the year 111th on the money list.
'I had a year that I proved to myself that I can play out here with that grip,' DiMarco said, 'and then, you know, last year I had a good year.'
Last year, DiMarco made the cut in 20 of 31 events played. He finished runner-up at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, and ended the year 62nd in earnings.
As he did in 1999, DiMarco steadily improved in 2000. Entering this week's Pennsylvania Classic, the now-32-year-old was 40th on the money list. He had established himself as a respectable competitor, earning two more second-place finishes.
Yet, he still had something to prove.
Through three rounds at the in Paoli, Penn., DiMarco held a three-stroke lead. Though he had come close to winning before, this was virgin territory for DiMarco. He had never taken a lead into the final round of a PGA Tour event. And with the likes of Calcavecchia and Loren Roberts nipping at his heels, even DiMarco wondered how he would handle the pressure.
'I got a good message from Brent Geiberger (who won his first-career event at the 1999 Greater Hartford Open) last night,' said DiMarco. 'He said: `Focus on yourself, don't worry about anybody else.'
'I told my wife the message. I said, `You know, that's such good advice.' I said, `Don't get ahead of yourself, just do - you know, what you've been doing the last three days and it will be great.' I took that to heart and I did that.
'Me and my wife have been through so much and my family has been through so much. Being so close so many times, even on the (Buy.Com Tour), losing in playoffs - it's just never been easy.'
Remarkably, Sunday's final round was.
With his family on hand, DiMarco holed a 143-yard approach shot at the par-4 3rd for an eagle 2. That set the tone for the day.
'I heard a clank, and I didn't know if it was over the green and hit somebody or if it went in,' DiMarco recounted, 'and then everybody went crazy. That really relaxed me, perhaps a little too much.'
At 14-under, and leading by five shots, DiMarco held a comfortable cushion over the field. That comfort level decreased, however, with bogeys at the 4th, 9th and 11th holes.
Nervously leading Calcavecchia by two, DiMarco calmed himself on the par-4 12th. The former University of Florida All-America spun his approach shot back to eight feet, and then converted the birdie putt. Meanwhile, playing in the group behind DiMarco, Calc bogeyed the 12th to fall four off the pace.
'The birdie at the 12th was probably the biggest,' said DiMarco. 'I think Calc birdied 11 and I bogeyed. So we went to two shots and he bogeyed 12 and I birdied 12; so we're right back to four shots. That really helped me a lot.'
DiMarco played his final seven holes in 2-under-par. He strolled up the 18th with a six-shot lead, making his final tap-in easy to handle.
'I tell you, if it was only a one-shot lead, that eight-incher would have been really hard,' DiMarco said with a wry smile. 'But with five shots to spare, it was a really easy putt.
'It's a great feeling. It is what you hit those extra balls on the range for, what you hit those extra putts for.'
For the record, DiMarco never three-putted the tricky Waynesborough Country Club greens.
DiMarco has many reasons to be proud of his accomplishments this week. Five-hundred-and-forty-thousand of those will come from his winner's check. His perseverance has finally paid off, and in a big way.
But more than that, DiMarco has earned something money can't buy on the PGA Tour - respect.
'The Tour is an elite club as it is, and then the winner of a PGA Tour event is another one, even amongst itself,' said DiMarco. 'So I'm extremely proud of myself that I achieved that.'
DiMarco can also be proud of the fact that he'll be playing amongst the Tour's best at both the season-ending TOUR Championship (top 30 on 2000 money list) and the 2001-kickoff, the Mercedes Championships (all 2000 Tour winners.) DiMarco now stands 16th in season earnings.
Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.
The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.
The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.
This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.
After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.
“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”
Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.
Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.
“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.
To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.
“More punishment,” he said.
DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.
Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.
Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.
Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.
It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.
With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.
Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.
TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:
• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.
• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.
• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery.
• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”
• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.
• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.
• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.