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

February 04, 2002

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.

IN THE ZONE 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.

MIND GAMES 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.

LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING 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.

THREE COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CBS (TOP) FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: SCOTT HALLERAN (4)

THE TIP

Hitting off hardpan or desert turf, as DiMarco did at the TPC
of Scottsdale, is similar to playing out of a fairway bunker.
The key is a steeper-than-normal angle of approach on the
downswing, ensuring that the clubhead makes contact with the
ball first, not the ground. Picture 1 shows the impact position
off a normal lie, with the inset illustrating the angle of the
strike. Picture 2 and its inset show the impact position and
angle off hardpan. Here are the keys.

1. Position the ball a couple of inches farther back in your
stance.

2. Shift a little extra weight onto your front foot.

3. Set your hands and your head slightly toward the target.

4. Take an extra club so you can make a smoother swing.

Beware: Don't give in to the urge to accelerate on the downswing
in an attempt to scoop the ball and get it airborne.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)