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The U.S. Ryder Cup team can use Chris DiMarco's enthusiasm. (Photo: Getty Images)
The U.S. Ryder Cup team can use Chris DiMarco's enthusiasm. (Photo: Getty Images)

DiMarco's finish makes Lehman's job a whole lot easier

Chris DiMarco cheered up his grieving family and proved that his game was back on track at Hoylake. And, says T.J. Auclair, his strong finish just might have spared U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman a very difficult decision.

By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor

HOYLAKE, England -- Some players are just programmed for the Ryder Cup. For a United States team bound to bring some young blood over to the K Club in September -- J.J. Henry (currently No. 7), Zach Johnson (No. 8), Brett Wetterich (No. 9) and Vaughn Taylor (No. 10) are all potential Ryder rookies currently in the U.S. top 10 -- the presence of veteran leadership and a feisty attitude will be a must.

With that in mind, one of the biggest pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that is the Americans finding a way to avoid losing their fifth Ryder Cup out of the last six, may have been put in place on Sunday at Royal Liverpool.

Again, some players are programmed for the Ryder Cup and some are not. Chris Riley? Not so much. Has anyone heard from that guy since he told Captain Hal Sutton at Oakland Hills in 2004 he wasn't up for playing a second match because he was just "too tired?"

Riley may be a great person and a great player, but a team player he was not.

Want the ultimate team guy? Someone who thrives on performing at his best on the grandest of stages?

That would be the jigsaw puzzle piece, aka, Chris DiMarco, who may have just taken U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman out of a tough spot. See, he's a team guy -- he helps others.

To say the fall of 2005 up until now has been a roller coaster of emotions for DiMarco would be as obvious as saying the sky is blue.

Last September, DiMarco was on top of the golfing world. Playing in the last singles match at the Presidents Cup, the feisty Florida Gator holed a 15-footer that gave the Americans their first win in an international team competition since 2000.

DiMarco started the year No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings, just below the names "Woods" and "Mickelson."

Riding the momentum of his clutch performance at the Presidents Cup, DiMarco, with wife Amy caddying, won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates in January for his first win of any kind since 2002 Phoenix Open.

But then March rolled around and suddenly DiMarco's play went into a huge rut due to a rib injury he suffered in a ski accident that messed up his swing. Quickly, DiMarco went from Ryder Cup lock to Ryder Cup dreamer, skidding all the way down to No. 21.

As if things weren't bad enough from a professional standpoint, he received terrible news on July 4, while preparing for that week's Western Open in Chicago. His mother Norma, 68, had just died suddenly from a heart attack shortly after checking into a vacation condo in Colorado.

DiMarco was shocked and grief-stricken. However, burying his beloved mother put things in perspective.

"My mom has always been a huge supporter of me," DiMarco said in an interview after the second round at Royal Liverpool. "She followed me around so many times, drove me around as a junior player everywhere. She would be absolutely pissed off if I didn't play. It would bother her. So knowing what her wishes would be, she certainly wouldn't want me to sit home. What would I do at home? There's nothing I can do."

Traveling over to Royal Liverpool with Ryder Cup points worth double in the majors, DiMarco took care of business and wound up finishing alone in second, two shots behind Tiger Woods.

With the high finish, DiMarco racked up a much needed 360 Ryder Cup points to get to No. 6 in the standings. With just four events left before points close at the PGA Championship, he is in good shape to make his second Ryder Cup team.

"I had a lot on the line today," said DiMarco after posting a final-round 68 on Sunday. "I was trying to win, obviously. I'm trying to get major points for Ryder Cup in September. I feel like finally I've gotten over my injury and over the hump."

The presence of DiMarco and the enthusiasm he brings can only benefit the American side.

How important is making the Ryder Cup team to him?

"Obviously, winning a major would always solidify your career, there's no doubt about that, so that would be pretty special," he said in that Friday interview. "Playing for your country is probably the greatest thing I've ever done in golf. So I'd have to say playing for the country [would mean more than winning a major]. It would mean that much for me to come back here and go to the K Club and be part of that team.

"Once you've been on a team, you don't want to miss any. It's nice that my form is back with some weeks to go. Hopefully I can get some points, as I need, and if not, at least show Tom [Lehman] that my game is back and I'm ready to go," he added. "I know he knows mentally that the drive and the competitiveness in me is there, but he has to see some signs of good golf, and hopefully these last two days will carry over to the weekend."

They sure did.

Now instead of having to use a controversial pick on a guy who's playing poorly but has all the enthusiasm in the world, Lehman must be happy to know that in the unlikelihood that DiMarco slips out of the top 10, that captain's pick won't be so controversial.

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