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Major Player
MICHAEL BAMBERGER
June 20, 2005
He may not look the part, but after near misses at the PGA Championship and the Masters, Chris DiMarco is one of the favorites at this week's U.S. Open
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June 20, 2005

Major Player

He may not look the part, but after near misses at the PGA Championship and the Masters, Chris DiMarco is one of the favorites at this week's U.S. Open

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in the world, at last year's PGA Championship.

9. He was the only U.S. player to consistently kick European butt at

the 2004 Ryder Cup.

10. The only player to beat him at the Masters two months ago was Tiger

Woods, and Woods, driving the ball 75 yards past him on some holes,

needed a miracle chip-in and a playoff to do it.

With the U.S. Open being played this week at Pinehurst, you just know weird things are happening in office pools--that people are taking DiMarco before Retief Goosen, who won the Open last year and in 2001; before Ernie and Phil; before even Tiger and Veej. DiMarco is exactly the kind of guy sports fans have always responded to. He plays on grit, heart and desire. He's Doug Flutie in golf spikes (pointy metal ones, not those round plastic jobs). In the last four years he has helped raise more than $1 million to send kids with cancer to camp. He sometimes kisses his wife, Amy, midround, as she follows him outside the ropes. When his mind wanders during a slow day in his outdoor office, or when the pressure's too much, he sometimes says to himself, "Dig deep. Can't disappoint the kids," and pictures his three children, Cristain, 9, Amanda, 7, and Abigale, 1.

Pinehurst No. 2 should set up beautifully for DiMarco, because controlling his distances with his irons is one of his strengths, and critical at Pinehurst. Approach shots that land on the green, but long or short of the hole, may not stay on the green. Also, he has developed into an excellent short putter (box, page 67). You get few true tap-ins on No. 2; the ball will often trickle four or five feet past the hole.

The sports section used to be filled with Chris DiMarcos: ballplayers, golfers and guards off the bench especially--men with working-class roots, not that different from all the Joe Fans watching them. But today on the PGA Tour the 36-year-old DiMarco, anything but an overnight sensation and with only three Tour wins, is an anomaly. He takes all his cues from old guys: Fred Funk, 49, who won the Players Championship in March; Ryder Cup partner Jay Haas, 51 and still going strong; his coach at Florida, Buddy Alexander, 52, who won the 1986 U.S. Amateur.

The code of those golfers, and the generation that trained them, is this: Take nothing for granted, always remember you're getting paid to play a game, and act like a pro. You can easily imagine DiMarco playing the Tour 30 years ago, in an Amana hat, wearing Sansabelt slacks, using MacGregor balls. In the late 1970s DiMarco made a study of journeyman Bob Gilder, who had played with Chris's father, Rich, in a pro-am, at the old Jackie Gleason tournament in Fort Lauderdale, an event Jack Nicklaus won every year, or so it seemed.

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