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Published: Monday, 4/11/2005

Masters notebook: DiMarco enjoyed day of golf

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Chris DiMarco said he was "throwing up on myself all day," but he also said that this particular Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club was about as much fun as he'd ever had on a golf course.

DiMarco came from four shots behind before losing on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to Tiger Woods. It marked the second time in as many major championships that he suffered such a fate.

Last August, DiMarco was part of a three-man, four-hole playoff at the PGA Championship with eventual winner Vijay Singh and Justin Leonard.

This marked the second straight year that DiMarco stood by on the 18th green at Augusta and watched as someone knocked in a birdie putt to win the Masters. He was a more interested bystander this time.

A year ago, he was the co-leader with Phil Mickelson, with whom he was paired, entering the final round, but did not play well and wasn't a factor, finishing sixth after a final-round 76.

"I wasn't ready to win last year," he said. "I think I was ready to win this time. And I know I'll be ready to win next year.

"This would hurt if I felt like I'd given it away. But I played Tiger as hard as I could down the stretch. My stomach was turning. But it's nice to know that your stomach is going crazy and you're going crazy, but you're still performing.

"I birdied a bunch of holes coming in on the back nine and I felt like I put it on him a little. Any time you can make Tiger hiccup a little you know you're doing something right."

It was a remarkable turn-around for DiMarco, who did very little right the first time he toured the back nine yesterday.

When third-round play was suspended Saturday evening, Woods and DiMarco had both completed nine holes and the three-time PGA Tour winner owned a four-shot lead.

Yesterday morning, it disappeared in what must have seemed like a heartbeat.

DiMarco double-bogeyed No. 10 right out of the barrel and played the back nine in 41. Woods, meanwhile, polished off a 65 to get to 11-under and took a three shot lead.

"That's golf," DiMarco said. "It changes. A bogey and a birdie is two shots. It can happen quickly. The fairways were a little wet, which made it pretty long, and it was tough for me to control my shots. But I knew what I was capable of by the way I'd played the first 45 holes.

"For the final round, I felt like it was time for me to do something. It wasn't a time for me to go out and shoot a 72. I had to be aggressive to have a chance to win the tournament. And I did. I went out and shot a 68 in the final round of the Masters and that's a pretty good round. You know, 12-under is usually good enough to win a major. I was just playing against Tiger Woods."

NO DEFENSE: There was no magic this time for Phil Mickelson. The defending champion was hanging around, trailing by five or six shots for much of the final day despite a balky putter, but saw any hopes end with a double bogey at No. 16. He closed with a 2-over 74, but managed his seventh straight top-10 finish in the Masters.

"It's not nearly as much fun when you don't have a shot at it on the back [nine] on Sunday," Mickelson said. "Tiger and Chris just played incredible golf and I wasn't able to mount any kind of charge."

NO GAME: Ernie Els, the No. 3-ranked player in the world entering the Masters, never broke par and finished at 10-over 298.

"It wasn't good, was it?" he said. "The game wasn't there. That's it."

Els has been fighting flu-like symptoms for two weeks, but he shook his head when asked if it was a factor.

"I was really sick last week, but I'm fine," Els said. "I don't want to make excuses. I just want to get away and work on my game. It's hard to work on your game when the weather's crazy."

AMATEURS: Ryan Moore, who won both U.S. Amateur and NCAA championships last summer, finished as low amateur in the Masters. His final-round 70 produced a 1-under 287 finish, the best score by an amateur since 1978. Luke List, the other amateur who made the cut, also finished strong with a 2-under 70 for a 6-over 294 finish.



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