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In 30 career majors, Chris DiMarco has seven top 10s and three runner-up finishes. (Photo: Getty Images)
In 30 career majors, Chris DiMarco has seven top 10s and three runner-up finishes. (Photo: Getty Images)

DiMarco in familiar territory in a major championship

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If it seems like Chris DiMarco is always in contention in major championships, it's because he usually is. However, the PGA TOUR veteran has yet to close the deal in one. But after a solid 66 Saturday at Carnoustie, DiMarco is right there again.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Chris DiMarco has a thing for major championship golf. In 30 starts, he has seven top 10s, including three runner-up finishes, two of which came in playoffs.

That other runner-up finish came last year in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, where he lost to Tiger Woods by two shots despite an incredible 4-under-par 68 in the final round.

This time around, in the 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie, DiMarco has yet another chance to snatch that first major victory. He put himself in position with a stunning third-round 5-under-par 66 on Saturday -- the best round of the week until Steve Stricker posted a 64 an hour later.

"I felt like I learned the strategy of the course the last couple of days. I think yesterday's round [a 1-under 70] gave me a lot of confidence for today," said DiMarco, who had seven birdies and one bogey. "I hit the ball the best all year, with the exception of one or two shots, one or two drives. But other than that, I hit it really good. Today I went right with it again, and hit the ball really solid. Pretty much where I'm aiming it. I told my caddie I have to stop aiming it 20 feet right, because I hit it 20 feet right. Better aim it right at the hole."

DiMarco's play is somewhat of a surprise. He's only missed the cut twice in 18 starts in 2007, but has yet to record a top-10 finish. Last year at Royal Liverpool, DiMarco was playing inspired golf shortly after the sudden death of his mother, Norma, and also had a potential spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team riding on his performance.

While it is a year later, DiMarco said his mother is still very much on his mind, along with a spot on the U.S. team for September's Presidents Cup. But, there is a glaring difference between this year and last.

"Obviously my mom is always with me. So that part is the same," he said. "I think the difference this week, believe it or not, is I made a change with my caddie. I went back to my old caddie, the one I used before this championship, the one I used for seven years. We were seven years in the top 20 (on) the money list."

DiMarco's caddie, Pat O'Brien, was fired after last year's Open Championship. DiMarco had been struggling through 2006 -- due mostly to injury -- and after his high finish at the Open with new caddie Ryan Rue, he decided to sack O'Brien the following week, thinking the change would be a good for his game.

"I went to a guy I had to teach everything to," he said. "To be honest, it got to be a burden. I don't have to do that with Pat. He knows his job, he knows what he's doing and we go out there and we play golf and we're a really good team. I've had a lot of guys come up to me and say, 'what took you so long?' They could see it. It's been nice. We have a lot of camaraderie together, and it's a really good business relationship without a doubt and he's a really good friend? I just think that I'm just a different player with him on the bag. I'm just a much more confident player and he helps me out there a lot."

DiMarco and O'Brien reunited three weeks ago. Previously, the two had worked together to win three PGA TOUR events, the last of which came at the 2002 Phoenix Open. DiMarco has one win since then at the 2006 Abu Dhabi Classic -- a tournament on the European Tour -- where his wife caddied.

While he has struggled with top finishes on TOUR this year, DiMarco said it's not because he's playing poorly.

"The hardest thing is I've been feeling like I've been doing pretty good. I haven't been putting it together," he said. "Golf is like that. I haven't been scoring. Things haven't gone my way. The last couple of weeks bounces have gone my way a little bit. I kept telling them, everybody is more concerned about me than me. I feel fine. And it wears on you when everybody goes, 'what's up, everything good?' After a while you go, 'God, maybe there is something wrong with me.' Obviously I haven't had as great a year as I'd like to."

If experience counts for anything, and it usually does in majors, DiMarco should be in the hunt come late Sunday afternoon.

"I feel like my game is where it needs to be and I really feel like I putted the last two weeks about as good as I've putted in a long time," he said. "And I think that's the whole key for me."

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