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NOTES

DiMarco Rises to the Challenge

July 24, 2006|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

HOYLAKE, England — The many golfers not named Tiger Woods have taken criticism for fading against Woods on major Sundays, but the tag clearly doesn't fit Chris DiMarco.

DiMarco not only added a runner-up British Open finish to his runner-up Masters finish of 2005 (to Woods, in a playoff) and his runner-up PGA finish of 2004 (to Vijay Singh, in a playoff), but he showed typical relish at being in the fray.

"If you can't get up playing the best player in the world in a major," he said, "I don't know what else there is. I mean, absolutely it pumps me up. I know Tiger said one of the greatest things ever, I don't know how many years ago he said it, that being in contention in a major or in any tournament is like a drug. And it is. It is our drug."

Playing almost three weeks after the sudden death of his mother, Norma, who suffered an apparent heart attack, DiMarco decorated his back nine with a 25-foot birdie putt, a 60-footer for par and an 18-foot birdie, plus a birdie on his 72nd hole. On Saturday, he cited "divine intervention," and on Sunday, he said, "I know if I close my eyes I can see her."

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Sergio Garcia, in lemon-colored clothing, brought the 181st-ranked final-round average on the 2006 PGA Tour and the highest final-round average in majors (72.45) among the contenders. One shot behind Woods at the outset, he stood seven shots behind after a four-bogey, zero-birdie front nine.

"I can take a lot of positive things out of this tournament," he said. "It's a shame. That's the way it goes sometimes. I didn't play the way I should've."

The next major, the PGA Championship in Medinah, Ill., was the setting when he splashed into world fame as a 19-year-old at the 1999 PGA, finishing second to Woods. He has entered the 27 majors since without winning, but he did gain his fifth top-five finish with a fifth place after Sunday's 73.

He was the top European finisher as the continent's drought extended to 28 majors.

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Masters champion Phil Mickelson finished at five-under 283, 13 shots off the lead, and found the pin positions a bear. "They were very challenging, that would be it."

Unfair? "That's not my call but they were difficult," he said.

He did, however, join the chorus endorsing Royal Liverpool for permanence in the British Open rotation, after its first Open in 39 years.

Said Woods: "With the golf course being this fast, it lent itself to just amazing creativity."

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Woods became the 19th player to win the British Open at least three times. His percentage of wins in professional starts rose to 25.13% (49 out of 195).

His 49 wins place him seventh all-time, two behind Billy Casper at 51.

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Argentine golfers claimed two of the British Open's top 10 spots, with Angel Cabrera shooting 73 Sunday to finish seventh at 10 under par and 25-year-old Andres Romero shooting 71 to tie for eighth at nine under.

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Japan Tour player Hideto Tanihara, who missed the cut in 2003 in his only previous British Open and spent last year's Open week finishing 31st at the B.C. Open, finished tied for fifth with Garcia after a closing 71 and said, "It's kind of bittersweet. I felt I left a few shots out there today, but on the other hand it is a great finish."

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