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Dean Reinmuth
February 04, 2002
A perfectly executed recovery shot from a desert wasteland rejuvenated Chris DiMarco and helped him win the Phoenix Open
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February 04, 2002

Big Play

A perfectly executed recovery shot from a desert wasteland rejuvenated Chris DiMarco and helped him win the Phoenix Open

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GRACE UNDER PRESSURE. DiMarco won because he remained cool when many pros would have self-destructed. Despite going double bogey, bogey, bogey to blow a four-shot lead early on the back nine on Sunday, he never blew a fuse. After a flared drive on the 501-yard par-5 15th came to rest hard against a clod of dirt, he coolly advanced his second shot, leaving a clear line to the green. From 153 yards out DiMarco summoned his first solid swing in six holes, a perfectly nipped eight-iron off the desert hardpan (above) that carried a pond and stopped 12 feet from the cup. After that gutsy shot I saw a rekindled fire in DiMarco's eyes.

Though he missed the birdie putt at 15, DiMarco stiffed another eight-iron on the par-3 16th, a sure sign that he was back in the game. Standing over the three-foot birdie putt, he was so focused that not even a rowdy spectator yelling "Noonan" during his backswing could distract him. "It kind of made me laugh and gave me more incentive to make the putt," says DiMarco, who drained it to tie Kenny Perry for the lead. On the 17th hole, a short, testy par-4, DiMarco played an aggressive second shot to a tough pin, and his hard-earned par, coupled with a Perry bogey that followed a meek chip, gave him a lead he would never relinquish.

When your round is falling apart, look to your mind—not your swing—to get back on track. The likely cause of your woes is fear, and your body is simply reacting to that fear. You're like a frozen computer: You have the necessary data but have lost the ability to access it. Staying patient, as DiMarco did, is vital. You also have to get your mind off the future (What calamity is next?) and get back to playing one shot at a time, with no thought of past blunders. It's amazing how a single shot, like DiMarco's eight-iron at 15, can erase the memory of a slew of bad holes.

With his half-swing preshot waggle and claw putting grip, DiMarco looks eccentric, to say the least, but his quirks come with a purpose. The claw gives him confidence on the greens so he can focus on putting feel instead of technique. The backswing waggles are simply reminders of where the club should be on the backswing. The lesson here is, Don't be afraid to go with what works.

Reinmuth owns the Dean Reinmuth Golf Schools, based in Del Mar, Calif., and is one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.