PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.(AP) — Chris DiMarco failed to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship for the first time in eight years, having fallen out of the top 100 in the world ranking.
DiMarco hasn’t been the same since he injured himself skiing when he slipped on a backpack, and a flask dug into his back. Then came shoulder surgery at the end of last season, and while he proclaims himself 100 percent healthy, it hasn’t been a great start to 2008.
He will play the Northern Trust Open at Riviera this week, and smiled when asked what he would do the week of Match Play.
“We’re going to go skiing,” he said. “Try that again, where it all started.”
DiMarco said that he at least has learned from his mistakes.
“I’m not going to carry a backpack anywhere, that’s for sure,” he said.
WELCOME BACK: Jonathan Kaye was five shots out of the lead going into the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and already in a mood to celebrate.
“My first cut in more than a year. I’m ecstatic,” he said. “My first paycheck in more than a year.”
Sadly, it wasn’t the size he had hoped.
Kaye, who missed all of last year with a toe injury, closed with a 78 while playing with actor Thomas Gibson (“Criminal Minds”) and tied for 53rd to earn $13,824, a small start toward trying to keep his card under tough circumstances.
Kaye, once ranked as high as No. 14 in the world, finished out of the top 125 on the money list and headed back to Q-school, where he tied for 29th to earn his card. But a right big toe that had been bothering him a few years reached the point where he had surgery, and he didn’t play another tournament until the Sony Open at the start of year.
That puts his status behind all the Q-school and Nationwide grads, making it tough to get into tournaments.
“It was nice,” Kaye said of his time off. “But I missed having a job.”
The tour surely didn’t miss having Kaye out of action for the year, and it wasn’t long before he revved up on a litany of complaints, particularly the new anti-doping policy.
Kaye joined a small faction of players who believe players should form a union.
“I don’t see a need for it. I don’t think anyone is on steroids,” he said. “They’re opening themselves up for a stringer, especially if we don’t have a players’ union, or a universal voice where we can be heard, instead of being squashed by a dictator.”
That would be PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, with whom Kaye has crossed frequently.
His most notorious incident, which led to a four-month suspension, came in Kingsmill in 2001 when a security guard asked to see Kaye’s tour badge. According to several published accounts, Kaye returned to his car and displayed the badge below the belt.
“I got the largest suspension ever on tour … for what?” he said. “I lose my job, and I lose my sponsorship. I felt the brunt of the tour when they’re trying to squash you. I felt like Brian McNamee.”
He also doesn’t like the new cut policy, and when told the Players Advisory Council would be meeting Tuesday at Riviera, that didn’t seem to allay his concerns.
“There’s not one person on the PAC that I voted for,” Kaye said.
Uh, welcome back, Jonathan.
NATIVE SON: J.B. Holmes has been to two major tournaments at Valhalla, but not with his golf clubs.
Holmes, who grew up in Campbellsville, Ky., and played at the University of Kentucky, figures he has played Valhalla over 20 times, some with the Wildcats’ team and some on his own.
He was first there in 1996 for the PGA Championship, working the scoreboard on the 14th green the year Mark Brooks beat Kentucky native Kenny Perry in a playoff. He was part of the gallery in 2000 when Tiger Woods and Bob May staged a terrific duel on the back nine, and Woods beat him in a three-hole playoff.
“We only stayed for about eight holes,” Holmes said. “We couldn’t hardly see anything.”
Holmes is No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings, which means little at this point since the standings fluctuate so wildly, but he is the kind of player whom captain Paul Azinger wants on his team – a big hitter who can intimidate with his length.
How’s this for intimidating? Holmes was asked the craziest thing his length has done for him at Valhalla.
“I hit pitching wedge into 18 one time,” he said.
The 18th is a par 5 that measured 542 yards in the 2000 PGA Championship.
OCEAN-FRONT PROPERTY: The European Tour was played in India for the first time last week, which would seem to put Daniel Chopra in a tough position. Chopra was born in Sweden, but raised by his grandparents in India.
But the allure of Pebble Beach kept him away.
“This is my favorite event on the PGA Tour,” Chopra said. “I loved it the first time I came here. I don’t think I’ll ever miss this event. They can write me down for life.”
How much does he love the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? Chopra caught himself looking at real estate brochures, and he planned to look at houses for sale on the Monterey Peninsula.
“I’ve won twice in the last three months,” said Chopra, who won last fall in south Florida and the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii. “I’m sure the mortgage brokers will be happy to see me coming.”
RUNAWAY LEADERS: Blowouts are hard to find in golf, although Tiger Woods seems to manage.
Woods is among 23 players to have won PGA Tour events by at least five shots over the last 10 years, but it’s no contest when listing the number of times it happens. He has won by at least five shots 13 times since 1998, and three times by double digits.
Phil Mickelson is next on the list, having won three times by at least five shots, the largest in 2006 when he won the BellSouth Classic by 13 shots the week before his second Masters victory.
Davis Love III, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry are the only other players since 1998 to have won by at least five shots on more than one occasion, each doing it twice. Both of Perry’s routs came at Colonial, where he won by six in 2003 and by seven in 2005.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Every PGA Tour winner in 2008 except for Tiger Woods has missed a cut this year.
FINAL WORD: “Listen, we all know that everybody’s goal out here is to beat the guy and challenge him. I just think that a lot of times, people talk more about it, as opposed to letting the clubs do it for them.” — Charles Howell III on trying to beat Tiger Woods.