No, the story of the weekend belongs to a Gator, Chris DiMarco. While Woods was playing with a heavy heart, at least he had a long period of warning and preparation for his father's passing. When it came there was certainly grief, but likely some relief to accompany the sadness since Earl Woods was in pain no more. But Chris DiMarco lost his mom just two weeks ago. It was a stunning, shocking and heart breaking day when Norma DiMarco died of an apparent heart attack. There was no warning. No one had any idea it was coming. And DiMarco had lost his beloved mom who Chris credited with much if not all of his success. Chris decided to play the Open, and he brought his dad and son with him, but it was Norma DiMarco leading the cheers.
Only Threat in Final Round
DiMarco entered the final round in a three-way tie for second behind Woods. He was joined by two of the game's best players, Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els. And there was a big-time clutch performer, Jim Furyk another shot back. Yet as the day went along it was DiMarco alone who remained a threat to golf's greatest player. He got within one, fell back and again got to within two. While the others faded – as so many do on Sunday against Tiger -- DiMarco kept the pressure on. He made four birdies on the back nine, forcing Woods to respond in kind in order to win. And Tiger did just that.
DiMarco told ABC he knew where his inspiration was coming from, "I really felt my mom's presence out there today" DiMarco said. "It felt really good to be back up there in a major and having a chance to win."
Chris DiMarco dealing with his personal tragedy and rising to the occasion like he did in England is just part of the story. It has been a difficult year all around for the former Gator All-American. After a fast start in which he posted three top 20 finishes in his first four events, DiMarco suffered a pulled muscle on his rib cage and began struggling. He missed the cut at the Masters, a place where he took Tiger to a playoff. In fact, DiMarco has missed eight cuts this year, including the John Deere Classic just before entering the British Open. He had not finished in the top 20 in his last 13 events, and he had never finished in the top 40 at the British Open.
To say he was not on anyone's radar would be a gross understatement.
But somehow, through the grief, with Norma looking down on him, Chris DiMarco played one of his best tournaments ever. He challenged Tiger Woods when everyone else was quivering in the corner. And he let the golfing world know that was he back.
Turnaround Was Inevitable
While nobody could have predicted this kind of weekend for DiMarco, everyone knew that eventually he would be back among the best. Less than 15 months ago, DiMarco was ranked seventh in the world, and had built quite a reputation for competitiveness with his strong play for the USA in the Ryder Cup and Presidential Cup events. He has won over $17 million in his pro career and he's just on the verge of turning 38 years old.
DiMarco gutsy, gritty style is appreciated by golf fans all over, but nowhere more so than Gator Nation. DiMarco, perhaps more than any other former Gator, always makes it clear where his college allegiance lies. When he's playing well, he gets them doing the Gator Chomp all over the country and now all over the world. If you watched the final round, you saw the English chomping along as DiMarco challenged for the title. It's something he really noticed, as he told ABC in a post-tournament interview "the excitement and the adrenaline rush you get from the people when you do good things is just overwhelming," DiMarco said.
It matters not that he didn't win the event; he won the affection and respect of millions.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.