Grant Me This: Their inspiration at Hoylake was a-parent
Majors are supposed to separate the men from the boys, says PGA.com contributor Grant Boone, and the 135th Open Championship did exactly that. Earl Woods' boy and Norma DiMarco's boy made their parents very proud.
By Grant Boone, Special to PGA.com
In a championship designed to test the measure of a man, the 135th Open Championship came down to a mama's boy and daddy's little Tiger.
Playing through the pain and perspective of having just lost a loved one, Tiger Woods held off Chris DiMarco's back-nine blitz to win the Open for the second straight year and third time overall. For both men, their inspiration was a-parent.
DiMarco's mother, Norma, died suddenly on July 4th. Tiger's father, Earl, lost a lengthy battle with cancer in May. Ryder Cup teammates in the past and partners in grief at present, Woods and DiMarco broke away from the field, broke 70 when no one else in the last 10 groups could, then broke down in tears after an emotional week at Hoylake.
To see Tiger sobbing so uncontrollably after closing out his 11th Grand Slam victory was to realize how in control he'd been all week. Instead of a quick-strike approach on a course he could've tried to overpower, Woods laid back off the tee (using driver just once all week), produced perhaps the finest iron play since the last man to win consecutive Opens (Tom Watson), and lag-putted his way to yet another declaration of his dominance. (As a bonus, this "Killing Them Softly" rendition answered the flack he's taken from critics who contend he can only win with power.)
Sunday, patience made perfect. Woods opened with four routine pars on a blustery day when such things weren't so easy to come by, then -- after Ernie Els had tied him at 13-under -- eagled the par-5 fifth to go up by two.
Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia, who's always been second banana to Tiger, came out of the clubhouse dressed like a Chiquita. I'm not "callin' him yella," but Garcia's inability to consistently hole six-footers made him ripe for another major disappointment. Sure enough, Sergio teed off at 2:30 p.m. and was out of it by 3. He missed short putts at the second and third, and by the time Tiger eagled the fifth, Garcia was five back and a non-factor the rest of the day.
Tiger's lead was three at the turn, and the day was looking suspiciously like many of his previous 10 majors when either he asserted his will, the opposition laid down, or a combination of the two. Chris DiMarco lost to Woods at the 2005 Masters, but among the azaleas he was no shrinking violet. It's part of his DNA: DiMarco's Not Afraid.
Playing in the penultimate pairing, DiMarco made one last push for his first major. Birdies at 10 and 13 were each followed with improbable par putts at 11, from 20 feet, and an even longer one at 14 that made DiMarco wonder if his intervention into contention was DiVine.
That 45-minute foray coincided with Tiger's first foible when technology, which has helped change the way the game is now played, had an unusual impact again. The constant clicking of spectators' camera phones -- likely not an issue at Hoylake's first Open in 1897 -- inclined Woods to repeatedly back off his ball.
The delay in play put that final group out of position and in danger of being penalized for slow play. Perhaps a little extra fidgety, Woods yanked his approach at 12 left of the green and made bogey. It would be his only wrong number of the day, but it cut the lead to one as DiMarco stared down a 12-footer at 15 for birdie and a share of the lead.
When they arrived at 14, Woods and Garcia were back in position and off the clock. That's the time the tournament turned back toward Tiger for good. At the same 14th where he'd holed out for eagle Friday, Woods ripped a 191-yard bullet to within 8 feet.
When DiMarco missed and Tiger made, the lead was two. Another near-perfect approach at the par-3 15th yielded a second straight birdie and again a three-shot lead. DiMarco played the final three holes in 2-under for a 68, Woods in minus-1 for a 67 and the final two-shot margin.
Tiger's pursuit of greatness has been an attempt to keep up with the Joneses and Nicklauses in the annals of the game. Sunday's victory was his 14th professional and amateur major (one better than Bobby) and his 11th as a pro (seven short of Jack). Woods remains unbeaten when leading a major going into both the third and fourth rounds. And he's now an astounding 9-for-17 in majors played on par-72 courses, including Medinah, the site of next month's PGA Championship. You heard it here first.
While Woods earns the distinction of being named "Champion Golfer of the Year," DiMarco gets the runner-up's silver plate and an opportunity to play for another piece of tableware. One way or the other, this week's performance guarantees DiMarco's spot on the United States Ryder Cup team, if not on points then as a surefire selection of Captain Tom Lehman.
When Woods finished off the win at 18, then lost it on the shoulder of his caddie, Steve Williams, DiMarco was watching on a monitor with his son, Cristian, as they prepared to be interviewed by ABC. DiMarco still doesn't know how it feels to win a major, but he knows what it's like to lose someone who not only brought you into the world but walked alongside each step of the way.
They say the back nine of major championships are supposed to separate the men from the boys. It happened Sunday. The boys won.
Grant Boone is a husband, father, golf broadcaster, and sports journalist based in Texas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here do not reflect those of PGA.com or The PGA of America.