Chris DiMarco calls the unique way he holds his putter the “psycho grip,” possibly because it drives the competition crazy.
He was the most accurate putter at Callaway Gardens, and in the final round of the Buick Challenge Oct. 28 he had to employ his strange-looking grip only 26 times as he forced a playoff with David Duval, then won on the first extra hole when the defending champion missed an 8-footer for par the conventional way.
“You’ve got to be tough when you putt the way I do,” DiMarco quipped, celebrating his second career victory. “But that whole thing has calmed down. I don’t get nearly as many questions about it as I used to. I’ve shown it works.”
That he has. On the 72nd hole of regulation, with Duval watching from the television booth overlooking the 18th green, DiMarco sank a 15-foot birdie putt for a final-round 65 to match Duval’s total of 21-under 267.
Duval, who started the day six strokes back of third-round leader Joel Edwards, posted the best score of the day, shooting a 9-under-par 63 to climb atop the leader board.
Duval made an eagle at No. 7 and surged into the lead after the turn, making five birdies over the next six holes. He made another birdie at 17, a 15-foot putt, and penciled in a 30 for the final nine holes.
But in the playoff Duval’s game faltered as his second shot, a 9-iron from 132 yards, sailed through the green and stopped on the lip of a bunker. A foot either way and Duval would have faced a rather routine up-and-down to save par.
Instead, he was forced to stand in the sand, the ball about a foot higher than his feet. He punched it out, about 8 feet below the cup.
“After hitting so many good shots and then to have that happen to me, there’s nothing you can do but laugh,” Duval said.
In the playoff, DiMarco had a nearly identical birdie putt to the one he made on the final hole, only this time he missed. It didn’t matter when Duval’s putt slid left, giving him his only bogey of the day.
DiMarco, whose brother Mitch served as his caddie, earned $612,000 for the victory. He also won the SEI Pennsylvania Classic last year, but that was against a much weaker field.
“When you win once, you join the club,” DiMarco said. “But you don’t want to win just once. You want to keep on winning.”
While Duval and DiMarco were dueling, Kenny Perry was engaged in his own little tournament further back in the field.
This was the final event before the Tour Championship this week, which takes the top 30 in the money standings.
Perry began the week at No. 30, just $676 ahead of Jesper Parnevik, who went to Sunday with a four-stroke advantage over Perry. But the Swede struggled to 71 in the final round, while Perry guarded his 30th spot with a closing 66. Perry was able to secure a spot at Champions Golf Club in Houston, which made him feel better about missing an important event back home in Kentucky.
Perry was supposed to escort his oldest daughter, Lesslye, as she was honored at her high school homecoming Oct. 26. Instead, he felt he had to be at Callaway Gardens.