CASTLE ROCK, Colorado, AP
Chris DiMarco’s goal this week at The International is simple: wave to the crowd without playing the final hole.
DiMarco had four birdies to complete his first round, then added nine more in the second for 31 points and a six point lead Friday at The International.
At this rate, DiMarco might be able to skip a hole or two in the final round and still finish with enough points to win under the tournament’s modified Stableford scoring system.
“I’ve always said my goal is to have enough points when I finish the 17th hole to just walk in,” DiMarco said. “Just finish, walk off 17 and just kind of wave to everybody as I’m going down 18.”
It could be a long time before he gets to that point.
Rain and lightning ended Thursday’s first round, forcing half the field to return Friday for up to 33 holes at hilly Castle Pines Golf Club. Two more rounds of storms hit Friday, setting up another marathon day in the altitude for 72 players.
The second round will be completed Saturday morning and the top 70 plus ties will continue on to the third round.
“This course is a beast to walk and to walk 19 holes, it’s one too many,” said Olin Browne, who was fourth with 17 points after playing 25 holes Friday. “You have to walk 32 holes and you’re ready to slit your wrists at the end of the day.”
First-round leader Rod Pampling was second with 25 points through 11 holes of the second round. Bob Tway was another point back, and Browne made the biggest move of the day, tying the tournament record with 10 birdies in an 18 point second round.
But they might have a hard time catching DiMarco, who has 31 points in a format that gives players anywhere from 8 points for a double eagle to minus-3 for a double bogey or worse.
And the way DiMarco has been putting, they might have no chance at all.
He’s had just 49 putts in two rounds — 22 in the second — thanks to a change in stance before the final round of last week’s Buick Open. DiMarco finished that tournament tied for 15th after closing with a 66, then shot 63 in a pro-am in Aspen earlier this week.
He’s kept it rolling so far at The International.
DiMarco had six points through eight holes Thursday before the first round was stopped, then added eight more Friday morning to finish his first round.
He didn’t stop there.
DiMarco opened his second round with a birdie on the par-5 first, worth two points, and added three more on the front nine. He followed with birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 14, 15 and 17 before losing a point with a bogey on the difficult par-4 finishing hole, tapping in a 1-footer after the first delay of 53 minutes.
If DiMarco maintains this pace, he might get a chance to test the tournament rule that requires players to give their “best effort” on every hole.
“Maybe there will be a little fine,” DiMarco said. “But you know what? If you can guarantee me where I’m going to be on 17 (with a big lead) on Sunday, I’ll do it right now. I’ll take the fine.”
With a scoring format that rewards aggressive play, the tournament is far from over.
Browne proved that anything can happen at Castle Pines, firing at flags in the soft conditions after struggling in the morning.
He finished his first round at minus-1 after two bogeys on his final seven holes, but it didn’t carry over. Browne opened his second round with consecutive birdies and finished with four straight, finishing two points short of the tournament’s single-round record.
“I just understand it sometimes,” Browne said. “I just understand this game.”
Tway stayed steady during his 27-hole day, getting three birdies in the morning to finish with nine points. He added five more birdies before getting stuck in the thick rough on No. 18 and close with a bogey.
“This week, you have to drive the ball in the fairway because you cannot play in the rough,” Tway said. “That’s the No. 1 priority.”