One of the maxims of golf is that it is ‘not how, but how many’ and American Chris DiMarco hammered home the point with a brilliant seven-under-par 65 on his Masters debut at Augusta today.
DiMarco, possessor of one of the ugliest putting grips ever seen, posted his score just as Tiger Woods began his challenge for the final leg of his bid to hold all four major titles with a bogey five.
It was also just as Nick Faldo was running up a triple-bogey six on the short 12th to crash from level par to three over.
DiMarco’s grip is known on the US Tour as the ‘psycho’ method. The 32-year-old has a standard size putter but spreads his hands in the manner that Bernhard Langer employs with his broomhandle.
When he unveiled it he was the butt of endless comments from his fellow competitors. He found it worked, though, and since the idea is to get the ball into the hole in the fewest possible strokes he was not to be deterred.
Partnering 1988 winner Sandy Lyle this morning, DiMarco followed a birdie on the long second hole with a bogey at the 350-yard next but then had three more birdies in a row and completed the outward half with another on the 430-yard ninth.
Out in 32 as a result, he further capitalised on the perfect conditions with a two at the 155-yard 12th after watching Lyle go in the water and take five and then birdies on the 13th and 15th, the two par fives on the back nine.
He had just 25 putts in the round, held a four-stroke lead over US Amateur runner-up James Driscoll also making his debut and with Woods driving into the right-hand trees at the first and going from there into sand, DiMarco’s day was getting better and better.
His round had begun in different but dramatic fashion as well. DiMarco and Lyle were followed onto the first tee by Australian Greg Chalmers and his hooked drive hit a spectator on the head.
There was a loud, sickening crack and the man fell to the ground. Play was halted but when a medical unit arrived he was able to climb to his feet unaided before being taking off for treatment.
Lyle, in only his third tournament of the year after losing his US Tour card, birdied the hole but after his adventure at the 12th had to be content with a two-over 74, while fellow Scot Paul Lawrie shot 73.
Best of the Europeans out early were Swede Pierre Fulke, another making his debut, and 21-year-old Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Fulke, who had never played in America until last week’s BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, birdied the third and fourth holes and remained two under at the turn.
Garcia, runner-up to Woods at the 1999 US PGA but disappointing since, went alongside Fulke with birdies at the 12th and 14th.
Dubliner Padraig Harrington had birdies on the first two holes and after 12 holes was still one under as was Ian Woosnam, who after a bogey at the sixth birdied the ninth and 12th.
Faldo followed Lyle into the water at the 12th then went into the back bunker and failed to get up and down.
Ulsterman Darren Clarke matched Woods’ opening bogey but got it back at the fifth.
The original 94-strong field had become 93 with Lee Westwood’s withdrawal before the start and it was reduced further to 92 after only 20 minutes’ play.
That was because 78-year-old Doug Ford, in his record 49th Masters, double-bogeyed the first hole and immediately scratched. He shot 94 last year before pulling out.