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Former Gator finally plays well in Florida

By BOB HARIG, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2002


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Chris DiMarco seems comfortable at the Walt Disney World Resort, and he should. He grew up in Central Florida, attending Lake Brantley High then Florida.

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Chris DiMarco seems comfortable at the Walt Disney World Resort, and he should. He grew up in Central Florida, attending Lake Brantley High then Florida.

But he had never played as if he enjoyed the Sunshine State. At least not on the PGA Tour.

DiMarco failed to finish better than a tie for 12th in his six official tour events in Florida. His best finish at the Disney Golf Classic was a tie for 17th in 1999.

Things change. After shooting 69 on Saturday in the third round, DiMarco led by two over Scott Hoch, Skip Kendall and Bob Burns.

* * *

FIRST-TIMERS: There have been 15 first-time winners this season on the PGA Tour, which should give Kendall a good feeling. Kendall tries to win his first event today in his 260th event.

Clearwater's Greg Kraft is playing his 325th tournament without a victory, the longest current streak for fully-exempt players. Kendall is second in that category. The record for most starts before a win is held by Brad Bryant, who won at Disney in 1995 in his 475th start.

"I'm really pleased with the way I'm playing," said Kendall, who began the round five shots behind DiMarco and was two back after 66. "I'm only going to take positives from it and try to win my first tournament."

SHAFTED: Tiger Woods got a new toy this week, but he was still figuring out how to use it.

Woods put a graphite shaft in his driver.

"I thought I was getting old and hitting it short," he joked.

Woods said the shaft arrived Thursday after his round, and he experimented with it on the range before putting into play Friday.

"When I did trust it, I hit it great," he said. "When I didn't trust it, that's when I lost a little."

Woods' third-round 67 left him six back.

MEMORIES: It was a different time, a different life. Twenty years ago, Jeff Sluman was playing the Disney courses, competing in what was the biggest tournament on the Space Coast Tour. Sluman won and pocketed $15,000.

"I was set for life," said Sluman, tied for 21st after three rounds this week. "I didn't know what I was going to do with all that money."

This week the purse is $3.7-million, the winner's share $666,000.

For the first time in his 18-year career, Sluman has surpassed $2-million in earnings. He is 15th on the money list and qualified for the Tour Championship in two weeks. But the 1988 PGA Championship winner hasn't forgotten his mini-tour days.

"There was a lot of pressure in that it helped me get over the hurdles," Sluman said. "All those experiences ... certainly help later on in your life."

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