2004: DiMarco’s 2nd earns 1st Ryder Cup

Haven, Wis.

Next to PGA champion Vijay Singh and course founder Herb Kohler, Chris DiMarco probably was the happiest man at Whistling Straits Golf Club.

Although he didn’t win the PGA Championship, DiMarco achieved a longtime ambition by playing his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

In doing so, DiMarco also erased two big disappointments.

The biggest was not being picked for the Ryder Cup team in 2002, when captain Curtis Strange gave him serious consideration but ultimately left him off the team.

The other disappointment was more immediate.

With a good chance of clinching a Ryder Cup spot last week at The International, DiMarco slipped from first place after two rounds to a sixth-place tie. He made 15 bogeys in the final 36 holes.

“I had a very disappointing week last week, and to hang in there this weekend and put two good scores up, to shoot 71 on this course on Sunday, I’m proud of myself,” DiMarco said after losing the PGA playoff to Singh.

DiMarco made a stirring comeback in the final round.

Walking off the eighth green, he trailed leader Justin Leonard by five shots. While Leonard was making two bogeys, DiMarco registered three birdies in four holes and was tied for the lead after finishing the 12th hole.

Unfortunately, his charge was derailed by bogeys at 15 and 16, where he yanked consecutive drives.

As it turned out, DiMarco had a 16-foot birdie attempt on the 72nd green that would have won the PGA.

“I looked at my caddie and I said, ‘I love this putt.’ I really did. I just didn’t hit it. It was dead center, too.

I putted really good all week. Unfortunately, the last one was short.”

A smiling DiMarco gave credit to Gio Valiante, a psychology professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., who works with several PGA Tour players.

“I hit a lot of really solid shots this week,” DiMarco said. “He helped me get there. I talked to him every night this week. I called him up Sunday night after my round (at The International) and told him, ‘OK, let’s talk about it.’

“He said, ‘Chris, one thing, don’t think that you choked. You did not choke. You just peaked early.”

Armed with that bit of rationalization, DiMarco peaked later this time. His reward: a Ryder Cup berth.

“I love it,” said DiMarco. “I love it.”

Rarely, if ever, has a playoff loser in a major championship been so happy.

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