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Short but Sweet

April 18, 2005
April 18, 2005

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April 18, 2005

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Short but Sweet

Question: Would the swimsuit competition be fair if Miss California wore a bikini but Miss Florida had to wear a Hefty 33-gallon trash bag?

This is an article from the April 18, 2005 issue Original Layout

Would it be sporting for one horse to carry a jockey and the other a barbershop quartet?

So what, then, do you think is fair about Tiger Woods versus Chris DiMarco?

Do you realize that on most holes in Sunday's Tums Masters, DiMarco's drives were a good city block behind Woods's? On the 1st hole DiMarco's tee shot was 61 yards behind Tiger's test-missile 344-yarder. Somebody should've gone up to DiMarco and said, "Hey, Chris, did you hear they're building a Wal-Mart around here?"

"Really? Where?" DiMarco would've said.

"Between your ball and Tiger's."

Most of the day Woods was just a red dot on the horizon to DiMarco. A couple times Augusta National officials warned DiMarco he was a hole behind. They should've let him hit from the seniors' tees. Or make Woods hit a Hacky Sack.

Put it this way, if Woods had to hit DiMarco's tee ball all day, he'd have hopped the fence at 13 and taken a cab home.

Yet the pesky DiMarco--the guy with a swing that looks like a drunk conducting an orchestra--stayed alive. He kept taking his long irons and sticking them inside Tiger's short ones. On the 9th hole he hit a four-iron inside Tiger's pitching wedge! It was enough to make a big hitter fire his pharmacist.

By all rights Woods should've blown off DiMarco like a ladybug from a 767. After all, Woods started the last round with a three-shot lead. Not once, not ever, had Woods lost a tournament when he'd started the last round with a lead of two shots or more. Not once, not ever, had Woods lost a major with the 54-hole lead. Yet not once, not ever, did DiMarco look DiFeated. He and his squirt gun kept hanging in against Woods and his catapult, even after being four down on the front nine.

DiMarco hung on even as Woods got every break while he got none. On the 6th hole DiMarco's ball sat on the green for two minutes before it suddenly decided to roll off. On 8 his driver broke, and he had to send for another one. On 10 Woods's drive was hooking madly into the trees, bound for Atlanta, when it hit a branch and stayed out of trouble. On 16 Woods's witchy L-shaped chip dropped into the cup on the last ... possible ... turn. Yet on 18, DiMarco's chip that would've won him the tournament outright took a chunk out of the hole and stayed out. "That chip," said DiMarco, "had absolutely no business not going in the hole."

You think God mixed up who was making $90 million a year and who wasn't?

"That's got to suck," a fan said as DiMarco grimly passed by. "That happened to him last year, too."

True, this is the second straight year DiMarco had to serve as 18th-hole witness while somebody else made a gagger to win a green jacket. Last year it was Phil Mickelson and his three-inch jump. This year it was Woods and his patented uppercut. "I am kind of sick of being happy for somebody else," DiMarco admitted later.

And this on top of blowing the 2001 Masters after leading the first two rounds. This after squandering last year's PGA playoff to Vijay Singh. This after wasting the four-shot lead he had at the restart of the rain-interrupted third round on Sunday morning--in 22 minutes, no less.

That night, at a dark and nearly empty Augusta National, Mickelson stopped his SUV, jumped out and gave DiMarco a great big don't-cry-buddy bear hug. But if DiMarco was going to cry, it would've only been because the clubhouse man was out of beer.

"For lack of better words, I showed a lot of balls out there," he said, packing up his locker full of good-luck cards. "I showed that in the biggest tournament of our year, with the biggest audience we get by far, I could still perform. And if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere."

He came from four shots back to tie the No. 1 player in the world. His 276 total would've won 61 of the 69 Masters played. He did it with the fifth-shortest drives in the tournament against the fourth longest. It was like Gilligan wrestling the Skipper. His only problem, he conceded, was "I just was playing against Tiger Woods."

So rise up, all you Bertha bunters! Rejoice, every Saturday-morning chop who has to holler, "Hey, hold on up there, guys! I haven't hit yet!" Be glad, all ye 198-yard pip-squeaks who get flown over like red states! You have a new hero!

"It will happen for me, definitely," says DiMarco. "I see myself wearing a green jacket someday."

Fine. But can you make it a short? ■

• If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to reilly@siletters.com.

By all rights Woods should've blown off DiMarco like a ladybug from a 767. Yet not once, not ever, did DiMarco look DiFeated.
COLOR PHOTOPETER READ MILLER