Smack-talking Tiger Woods in his prime? Here’s what that was like

There’s an alternate universe in which Chris DiMarco has a green jacket.

That universe just doesn’t include Tiger Woods.

Of all of Woods’ down-the-stretch battles that helped him secure his 15 major titles, perhaps none was as tight and thrilling as the one he had with DiMarco at the 2005 Masters.

Woods began the final round Sunday after having completed his third-round 65 that morning, which included a Masters record seven-straight birdies, to take a three-shot lead over DiMarco, who had held the 36-hole lead by four.

“Probably everyone in the world thought this thing was over going into Sunday,” GOLF’s Subpar co-host Colt Knost recalled to DiMarco and fellow co-host Drew Stoltz on this week’s episode. “And you went out there and said, ‘No, sir, not yet.'”

Despite Woods making back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16, the second of which featured his now-iconic chip-in that hung on the lip for what seemed like an eternity before dropping, DiMarco caught Woods to force a playoff, with the pair finishing a whopping seven shots clear of the rest of the field. Woods birdied the first playoff hole to win his fourth green jacket.

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DiMarco also was the closest man to Woods at the Open Championship the following year at Royal Liverpool, finishing second by two shots.

DiMarco told Stoltz and Knost that he challenged Woods exactly the way Woods wanted to be challenged.

“He doesn’t want somebody to cower and go away,” DiMarco said. “He wants to be challenged. I mean, that’s his drug. His drug is to be in that situation and then outperform whoever he’s playing.”

DiMarco is one of just three golfers to face Woods in a playoff at a major; the other two were Bob May at the 2000 PGA and Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open. None of that trio ever won a major, nor, as Knost pointed out, were they among the longest or most intimidating players in the field.

But DiMarco said each of those players earned Woods’ respect for the fights they put up.

“We all were really good drivers of the golf ball, really good iron players and really good putters. So he knew he had to be on it, man,” DiMarco said. “You know, Sunday at Augusta that year, I mean, he was hitting it 50, 60, 70 by me all day and I was hitting the closer to the pin every hole. So, you know, he knew that the game was on and he had to go out and play and play some good golf.”

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DiMarco also had the guts to play games and take shots at Woods during the tournament.

“We were walking down 11 and I just hit one a little closer to him again and I said, ‘Are you tired of putting first yet?'” DiMarco remembered saying to Woods in the final round.

“He just went, ‘F— off!'”

That definitely wasn’t the only chance DiMarco took to get some ribbing in on the greatest player to ever do it. The very next year at Augusta, just after DiMarco’s Gators won the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on the Monday before the Masters, DiMarco saw another opening at the tournament practice facility.

“I took a golf ball out and I wrote, ‘Go Gators’ on it,” DiMarco said. “And I chipped it down to him and hit a really nice little chip that ran kind of right into his bucket there. And he lifted it up, took a sharpie out, scratched, sent it back down to me, and he scribbled out ‘Go Gators’— or ‘go’ and he wrote ‘F— the…’ ‘Gators.'”

For more from DiMarco, including what makes him a clutch putter and his thoughts on playing with both Woods and Phil Mickelson, check out the full episode below.

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