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Published: Wednesday, 6/12/2002

DiMarco grateful for Tiger's presence

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Chris DiMarco feels Tiger Woods has provided a win-win situation for other PGA Tour players.

“I thank him every day,” said DiMarco, who cashed a winner's check for $720,000 earlier this year in Phoenix. “He made our purses go from big purse being $1.5 million to where we are playing for $6 million a week now.

“He came along right at the perfect time for golf. I don't know anybody who can say anything negative about what he's done for the game. He's brought so many more fans to the game and kids who might never have started playing the game are picking up golf clubs now. He's been totally positive for the tour.”

From a competitive standpoint, DiMarco said all golfers should want to play against, and beat, the best instead of lamenting the fact that Woods' presence means fewer victories for others.

“The three tournaments I've won, Tiger didn't play,” he said. “Trust me, they would have been much sweeter if he'd been there. He sets the standard for us, he's the bar we try to rise to. I'll get to see it close up for the first two days, too, so that will be fun.”

DiMarco and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland are paired with Woods during the first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. They tee off at 1:35 p.m. tomorrow off No. 10 and at 8:35 a.m. Friday off No. 1.

YOUNG GUN: Derek Tolan of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was hoping to qualify for some big junior golf tournaments this summer. Now, add the U.S. Open to the list.

“All of a sudden, I'm playing in probably the biggest golf tournament in the world,” the 16-year-old Tolan said. “It was a shock, it was confusing. Now, it's starting to sink in, and I feel pretty comfortable.”

The youngest player in the field qualified with an incredible 18-hole stretch, then won a three-man playoff that included part-time PGA Tour player Mike Reid.

In the 36-hole sectional qualifying tournament, Tolan walked off the 11th green of his morning round after scoring a triple bogey that put him at 2-over par. He walked off the same 11th green during his afternoon round at 7-under. That's 18 holes in 9-under.

“It was the best 18 holes of my life,” said Tolan, who then won the playoff by chipping in for birdie on the first playoff hole.

Tolan, the son of a club professional, recently finished his junior year in high school. Last year, at 15, he qualified to play in the U.S. Amateur.

LITTLE MISSES: Phil Mickelson, who is seeking his first major title, said Bethpage Black erases the “miss-it-big” philosophy often taken by the pros.

“If you miss a fairway, the idea usually is to miss it big and get to where the gallery is,” Mickelson said. “Here, that's not the case.

“We have a regular cut of rough [at] about four inches, but then there is thick, two-foot-tall heather before we get to the people.

“If you miss it big it's much more penalizing than in years past where the rough might be trampled down. Driving the ball is always important, but here we might not get lucky and find a lie where we can hit to the green. It seems like if you miss the fairway, you're just going to be hitting wedge out.”

IT'S A SNAP: Sergio Garcia was one shot off the pace entering the final round of last year's Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa. He'd like to be in the same position this weekend, but hopes he could avoid duplicating his final-round 77.

“Last year was very positive for me,” Garcia said. “I like the way I played and I like the way I hung in there. Unfortunately, on Sunday, I was probably too aggressive. I learned from it. I learned that on Open courses, if you're just a little off, you can shoot a big number just like [snaps fingers].”

THREE-DOT DATA: Andy Miller, the son of 1973 Open champ and TV commentator Johnny Miller, qualified for the field. ... Darrell Kestner, a club pro from nearby Glen Cove, N.Y., who is playing in his eighth Open, won the 1994 New York State Open at Bethpage Black. ... The purse this week will be $5.5 million with $1 million going to the champion. ... Jay and Jerry Haas will be the first brothers to play in the same Open since Larry and Lee Rinker at Congressional in 1997. ... A featured pairing (1:25 p.m. tomorrow) during the first two rounds includes defending Open champion Retief Goosen, reigning British Open champion David Duval and reigning PGA Champion David Toms.



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