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Having barely missed two major titles, Chris DiMarco is hoping the third time is a charm. (Photo: Getty Images)
Having barely missed two major titles, Chris DiMarco is hoping the third time is a charm. (Photo: Getty Images)

DiMarco finds himself in a familiar final-round position

Chris DiMarco has plenty of experience in contending in majors, and with a break here or there at the 2004 PGA Championship or 2005 Masters, he could be a major champion, too. He doesn't want to let another chance slip away on Sunday.

HOYLAKE, England (AP) -- Chris DiMarco should be used to this position.

In contention at the final round of a major? Been there, done that. This time, he'd like to win one.

His emotions churning as he tries to cope with the sudden death of his mother, DiMarco has nevertheless managed to put himself in the thick of things at the Open Championship. A 3-under 69 Saturday left him just a stroke behind Tiger Woods and provided the comforting notion that he was getting a little extra help.

When DiMarco arrived at Royal Liverpool's first tee, he was told that a woman keeping score was named Norma -- the same name as his mother, who died from an apparent heart attack on the Fourth of July.

"I don't know that I've met five people in my life named Norma," DiMarco said. "I told my caddie, 'You can't tell me she's not out here with us.' I've got someone watching over me. I've got some divine intervention. I just know it."

He'll take any edge he can get on Sunday. Woods is at the top of the leader board, a daunting prospect considering his 10-0 record in the majors when he's out front after 54 holes. DiMarco is part of a three-way logjam for second, tied with Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia -- no slouches, either -- at 12-under 204.

Eleven other players, including major winners Jim Furyk, Mark Calcavecchia and Retief Goosen, are within five strokes of the lead.

DiMarco has plenty of experience in these situations, none of it ending like he wanted. He lost a three-way playoff to Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA Championship. He dropped a playoff to Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters.

One putt here, one break there and DiMarco could be a two-time major champion. He doesn't want to let another chance slip away.

"You don't know how many chances you're going to have in a lifetime to win a major," DiMarco said. "I've played well enough to win a couple."

He doesn't want to get ahead of himself now. No pondering what it might be like to hoist the claret jug on the 18th green. No thinking about how proud his mother would be to see him win the Open. When those sort of thoughts creep into his head, "you slap yourself in the face and say stop thinking about it until it's over."

After shooting a 65 on Friday, tied for the best round of the week, DiMarco struggled a bit on the front side of the seaside course. A pair of errant 6-irons -- the first a little short at No. 7, the other a bit too strong at No. 9 -- led to bogeys and sent him around the turn at 1-over for the day.

But DiMarco is a scrappy player who feeds off his emotions, and he battled his way back into contention. He stuck a lob wedge within 4 feet of the flag at the 11th. He went back to the 6-iron at No. 12 and had much better results, leaving it 5 feet from the cup. He made it three straight birdies at the par-3 13th, the ball coming to a stop just 2 1/2 feet from a hole-in-one.

One last birdie, at the par-5 16th, put him in the next-to-last group on Sunday. DiMarco will play with Els, leaving Woods and Garcia to bring up the rear.

DiMarco insisted that he won't be paying attention to those around him.

"I know one thing is you've got to play your game," he said. "You can't watch what the person you're playing with is doing. You have to do what you're doing and what you've done all week."

For DiMarco, that means sticking mostly with his irons even though he's not one of the bigger hitters on the PGA Tour. He'll put out the driver every now and then, but is mainly concerned with avoiding any big scores and taking advantage when a birdie chance presents itself.

"There's a lot of drivers being hit out there and guys are [making] 7 and stuff like that," he said. "You have to stick by your game plan."

DiMarco and all the other top contenders caught a break when Woods struggled with his putter. The leader had a trio of three-putts on the back nine, which kept him from pulling away. After two rounds well into the 60s, he could only manage a 71 on Saturday.

Then again, everyone is well aware of Woods' perfect success rate in these scenarios -- especially DiMarco. Heck, he was on the losing end in one of them, watching Tiger roll in a birdie putt last year on the first extra hole at Augusta National last year.

Then again, Woods has usually had a much bigger lead going to Sunday. Maybe, just maybe, he'll finally slip up when being chased by a cast of all-stars. Maybe DiMarco will be the only who steals away the claret jug from the world's best player.

"Stats don't lie," DiMarco said. "Obviously, he's a pretty good front-runner, and usually he's got a five- or six-shot lead. Tomorrow, he has a one-shot lead. Anything can happen with a one-shot lead."

Besides, DiMarco feels like he'll have a little extra help Sunday.

"I know there's divine intervention," he said again. "I've got somebody up there who's going to be looking over me."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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