DiMarco still at helm in Masters

But Woods, Mickelson are on deck 2 back after second round

Duval in picture with 66

Leader is steady after first-hole bogey

April 07, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The second-round leader of the 65th Masters is Chris DiMarco, who also happened to be the first-round leader. Not that many noticed.

Given the history of the tournament and some of the names under his on the leader board yesterday at Augusta National, does anyone here except for DiMarco, his caddie and a small coterie of friends and family really believe the 32-year-old journeyman will be donning the coveted green jacket come Sunday night?

For all the attention he is being paid, DiMarco's numbers at the top of the scoreboard could have been replaced by "Thanks for coming and please drive home safely." DiMarco's 3-under-par 69 in the second round gave this one-time winner on the PGA Tour a 36-hole score of 10-under-par 134, one shot off the record.

It also gave DiMarco a two-shot lead over the world's top two players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, headed into the weekend.

"I think every player realizes that he is going to be up there," DiMarco said of Woods, who climbed up the leader board with a 6-under 66. "His record is phenomenal. He finishes in the top five just about every week. You know he is going to be around. If you can stay around him, you are doing well.

"It's going to be exciting. I can't wait. To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to it."

Woods and Mickelson are not the only ones who hope to overtake DiMarco. The rest of the leader board is filled with legitimate contenders, players with some history here as well as the other three major championships. Yet it's pretty difficult to peek at the board and not see their names - along with that of David Duval - staring back.

Woods, looking for his fourth straight major championship, has now posted the same scores in the first two rounds as when he won here in 1997. Mickelson and Duval, each seeking their first major after coming close in the past, shot respective rounds of 69 and 66 to get into or stay in contention.

"I think experience does help," said Woods, who is also going after his third victory in as many events on the PGA Tour. "It does make you feel more at ease, because I've been there before. I've won majors and lost majors. But more than anything, I've been there before."

And DiMarco hasn't. This is his first Masters and only his 10th major championship, his best finish a tie for 15th in last year's PGA Championship at Valhalla. That was where Woods beat Bob May in a playoff, making Woods the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three majors in the same year.

But DiMarco didn't appear intimidated yesterday. After making bogey on the par-4 opening hole, he quickly made two birdies and nine straight pars before making another birdie on the often devious par-3 12th and one more on the par-5 15th. He got up-and-down on the par-4 18th after driving into a fairway bunker.

"It was a lot like yesterday. I put myself in position on the holes when I could be aggressive and when I wasn't, I took par," said DiMarco, whose only victory in six seasons on the PGA Tour came at last summer's SEI Pennsylvania Classic. "Obviously I got to 10-under, which is a good score. Ten more the next two days obviously would be nice."

Something else is obvious - there are a whole lot of folks with major championships and more than a few regular tour victories in the hunt.

Not only does DiMarco have to hold off Woods, Mickelson and Duval, but also two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia and two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els.

Duval and Janzen are at 7-under 137, tied with Steve Stricker and Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Toshimitsu Izawa of Japan. Olazabal and Calcavecchia were at 6-under 136, along with Kirk Triplett. Els and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland were at 5-under. Defending champion Vijay Singh was six shots back, tied with Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Jim Furyk.

Janzen believes those with experience in major championships, himself included, might have a better chance on the weekend.

"I think watching it on TV over the year, you can somehow conjure up myths in your head that could affect you," said Janzen. "I'm sure everyone remembers Jack winning in 1986 and what he did to everyone else in the field."

That is what is expected of Woods. He probably could have taken the lead himself yesterday, given the way he tore up the front nine for a while with four birdies in a six-hole stretch that included a narrow miss for eagle on the par-5 eighth.

A pair of three-putt bogeys - first on the par-4 10th and later on the par-3 16th - were the only blips in an otherwise spotless round. After the second bogey, Woods made short birdie putts on the last two holes, both of them par-4s. It put him exactly where he wanted to be going into the weekend.

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