A collapse, then a comeback for DiMarco

Monday, January 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Another record crowd at the Phoenix Open got the exciting finish they wanted. Chris DiMarco would have rather put them to sleep.

Especially the rowdy fan on No. 16.

DiMarco showed him up by making his birdie, and he showed plenty of grit Sunday by recovering from his stunning collapse for a one-stroke victory over hard-luck Kenny Perry and Japan's Kaname Yokoo.

John Daly had a meltdown, too, dropping five shots over seven holes, but he recovered with his second eagle of the round and tied for fourth, two strokes behind.

In a tournament that no one seemed to want to win, DiMarco got back in the game with an 8-iron from 171 yards that stopped not much more than 18 inches from the cup on the arena-like par-3 16th.

A tap-in?

Not after what Perry did on the 13th hole, a gimme that came back to haunt him. And not after the fan screamed out, ``Noonan!'' as DiMarco stood over the putt.

That's a famous line in the movie ``Caddyshack,'' when everyone is shouting at Danny Noonan while he tries to make a 12-foot putt to win the caddie tournament.

``It gave me a little incentive to make the putt,'' DiMarco said.

He did just that to draw even with Perry, then made a gesture with his thumb and told tournament officials to get the man off the TPC of Scottsdale.

``I think he missed the ending,'' DiMarco said.

That was the fan's loss. The Phoenix Open had a few more twists and turns.

DiMarco had to get up-and-down for par on the 332-yard 17th and was figuring how in the world he was going to hit the 18th fairway with his driver. He didn't have to, not after Perry three-putted from 30 feet for bogey on the 17th to fall one stroke behind.

It finally ended with DiMarco two-putting from about 50 feet on the 18th and Perry's birdie putt burning the right edge of the cup.

DiMarco closed with a 2-under 69 and finished at 267 for this third victory in as many seasons, putting him atop the PGA Tour money list and making him exempt for the U.S. Open.

Perry had a 70, while Yokoo had a 7-under 64 to finish at 268.

``To be at the top, and then all of a sudden your world falls ... it makes you dig deep and learn a lot about yourself,'' DiMarco said. ``I've won by six strokes, I birdied the 18th to force a playoff. This was one you had to hold on.''

This was a tournament that kept slipping away.

First, it was DiMarco. He led by four strokes after 10 holes before hitting behind a tree on No. 11 and making double bogey, hitting into the bunker for bogey on the par-3 12th, then driving into the water for bogey on No. 13.

``The next thing I know, Kenny Perry has got an eagle put to go 3-up,'' DiMarco said.

Perry, coming off a birdie on No. 12, lagged his eagle putt to 18 inches, then badly pulled the short birdie putt and had to settle for only a one-stroke lead.

``That really killed me,'' Perry said. ``I missed a gimme.''

Perry has played in final group three times this year without winning.

The short putt came back to haunt him, and it gave DiMarco new life. He took advantage with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th, then scratched out a two-putt par on the next hole despite driving into a desert bush with a huge dirt clod in front of his ball.

Perry gave up the lead on the 17th by driving too long and too far right _ level with the green, but at such a bad angle that to pitch over the bunker toward the pin would likely send the ball rolling over the green and into the water.

``I don't know what you're supposed to do on that crazy hole,'' Perry said. ``I was looking for the miracle shot, and it didn't happen.''

He chunked his chip, then three-putted from 30 feet.

Daly had his chances, too.

Spurred on by a gallery of 119,600, a 15-foot eagle putt on No. 3 put Daly at 17 under and tied for the lead with DiMarco. But he turned back into the ``Wild Thing'' with his driver, hitting in five trees over three holes, making bogeys on all of them. He also double-bogeyed the 11th.

``I hung in there. I gave it my best shot,'' Daly said. ``Hopefully, I'll get in contention more and maybe one day I'll come out on top.''

Daly closed with a 70 and was at 269, along with two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, whose 64 was his best final-round score since the 1994 Texas Open.

Duffy Waldorf's one-stroke lead to start the final round was gone after the first hole and he never recovered, closing with a 73 to finish sixth.

The final round had a familiar look to it for DiMarco. At the International last year in Colorado, he had a big lead through eight holes until making two double bogeys and three bogeys to fall into a tie for third.

``I've got give hats off to my caddie because he kept me calm,'' DiMarco said. ``It happened at the International where I kind of gave one away. And it was, 'Hey, we're not going to give another one away.' He kept me focused.''