DiMarco joins fray with second-round 65

Updated: September 24, 2004, 10:25 PM ET
Associated Press

FARMINGTON, Pa. -- Their Ryder Cup experience was so miserable, the magnitude of the United States' loss to Europe so great, Tiger Woods and Kenny Perry decided to pull out of the 84 Lumber Classic.

Chris DiMarco didn't, and now he's in contention to win the tournament.

DiMarco shook off the disappointment he has felt since last weekend to shoot Friday's best round, a 7-under 65, and put some pressure on leader Vijay Singh, who followed up his opening-round 64 with a steady-as-he-goes 68.

Ben Curtis
Ben Curtis has put together consecutive rounds of 67 to contend at the halfway point.
Singh leads 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis by two shots with DiMarco another stroke back.

Singh actually had a bogey -- his only one in two days -- but opened with two straight birdies and added three more during a round that could have been even better if he hadn't missed several short putts.

Singh, who can set a PGA Tour season money record by winning the $756,000 first prize, liked how he putted despite the results. He blamed several misses on the still-maturing and tough-to-read greens at the 7,471-yard Mystic Rock course, all 18 of which were rebuilt after being criticized by last year's field for being too soft and too easy.

"It's pretty hard to read the greens," he said. "The greens are not settled. And just when you think you've got the right line, after putting you know the line then. ... I probably had three or four [misses] from inside eight feet. But I made some long ones to equalize that."

Singh also played when scoring conditions were less favorable, after the Allegheny Mountain winds that gave shots some extra length died down in the afternoon and the greens became chewed up. He was one of the first players on the course Thursday, when he took advantage of prime scoring conditions with an eagle and six birdies for his 64.

"I'm quite happy," said Singh, who recently overtook Woods for the world No. 1 ranking. "I've got the weekend to go and there are a few more chances out there."

DiMarco's 65 also came in the afternoon, after he took advantage of his later starting time to enjoy some much-needed sleep. His 2-1-1 Ryder Cup record was the best of the Americans, but the one-sided 18-9 loss to Europe stayed with him for several days and affected his preparation for this weekend.

DiMarco might have withdrawn, as Woods and Perry did, if he hadn't promised four close friends weeks ago he would take them to next weekend's World Golf Championship event in Ireland for free. Joe Hardy, 84 Lumber's fabulously wealthy owner, offered any golfer a free trip for five if he played this weekend en route to Ireland.

"Mr. Hardy made an unbelievable deal," DiMarco said. "But the Ryder Cup was exhausting. ... Wednesday, I was out of it and Thursday it was still on my mind and I probably wasn't ready, but getting a good night's sleep really helped today. I hit a lot of solid shots and gave myself a lot of chances."

The other two U.S. Ryder Cup members both made the cut, with David Toms at 3 under, nine off the lead, and Stewart Cink at 2 under.

Curtis, all but invisible since his being one of the most surprising major winners ever at the 2003 British Open, has had consecutive 67s -- a much-welcomed start for a golfer who has missed the cut in five straight tournaments and seven of 11.

He has only one top 10 finish since the British Open, leading after two rounds of the Memorial before finishing eighth.

"It's going to be a long weekend," he said. "I haven't played 72 holes in a long time."

He played well Friday despite wearing Cleveland Browns colors -- the bright orange shirt was a giveaway -- in Pittsburgh Steelers country. He realizes he might not want to try that over the weekend, when the crowds figure to be larger.

"Hopefully, by this weekend, I will have some Steelers stuff," he said.

Singh is five shots up on Kent Jones, Joey Sindelar and J.P. Hayes, who are tied at 7 under. Sindelar and Hayes both had 69s Friday and Jones followed up a 69 with a 68, only the second time in 16 tournaments he has had consecutive rounds in the 60s.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE