CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Just like last year, Chris DiMarco came to the British Open in desperate need of a good finish. Just like last year, he's found his A-game on a bumpy, quirky linksland thousands of miles from home.
DiMarco made seven birdies and shot a 66 to finish at three under and get within striking distance of winning his first major. He played last year's Open in the immediate aftermath of the death of his mother, Norma, who died of a heart attack. But he did not credit his sentimental feelings for golf on this side of the pond, or good British Open vibes of any sort, for his good play. He chalked it up to his recent reunion with his old caddie, Pat O'Bryan.
"We were seven years in the top 20 on the money list," DiMarco said of his relationship with O'Bryan, which resumed at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich., last month. The two parted ways just prior to last year's British Open at Hoylake, where DiMarco finished second with a friend, Ryan Rue, on the bag. The star of the last Presidents Cup figured he'd stick with Rue, but there was a problem: Hoylake was Rue's first tournament as a caddie, and DiMarco soon realized he would have to teach his buddy virtually everything about the trade of carrying a bag on Tour.
"To be honest it got to be a burden," DiMarco said. "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."
O'Bryan shrugged his shoulders when asked about the reunion. "No hard feelings," he said. He was sitting in the first row of coach on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Edinburgh; DiMarco sat in first class. At the Edinburgh airport, O'Bryan spotted DiMarco's handful of large bags, all of them in the orange and blue of DiMarco's beloved Florida Gators, and dutifully removed them from the carousel. DiMarco offered him a ride into Carnoustie, but O'Bryan opted to ride shotgun with a reporter heading that way.
DiMarco pronounced himself injury-free for the first time in a long time. He hurt himself skiing in the off-season after his 2005 Presidents Cup heroics, and then struggled with pain in his left shoulder that required cortisone injections. "Eventually I'm going to have to have it scoped," he said.
His reunion with O'Bryan didn't produce immediate results. DiMarco tied for 70th at the Buick, and 40th at the AT&T National at Congressional. But one week can change everything.
When he wasn't torching Carnoustie in cool, breezy and occasionally misty weather Saturday, DiMarco chatted up his playing partner, Scotland's Ross Bain. As he walked up the 18th fairway, DiMarco even struck up a conversation with the walking scorer. At one point he asked the boy, who looked to be in his late teens, or perhaps 20, "Were there pints involved?"
DiMarco seemed without a care despite being off the radar for the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup; he seemed to know he was back, hitting his irons at the stick and putting well as always. The rest would take care of itself.
"My thinking on the golf course is so much better [with O'Bryan]," DiMarco said. "We are, together, so much better than I was before this. I just think that I'm just a different player with him on the bag. I'm just a much more confident player and just — he helps me out there a lot."