Bridgestone notebook: Coach helps DiMarco refine his shot

Mike Popovich

Chris DiMarco found himself hitting unsolid, fat shots. Enough was enough.

After last week’s Canadian Open, DiMarco drove from Toronto to Toledo to work with renowned coach Rick Smith. It was a great idea based on his first round at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

DiMarco shot a 2-under-par 68 and is among a large group two shots behind leader Retief Goosen. He is looking for his first top-10 finish of the season.

“I can honestly say that coming in my form has not been great for a while, so I’ve really got to thank Rick Smith,” DiMarco said. “I worked with him on Sunday and again on Wednesday, and some really good things happened that kind of got me on the right track and hitting the ball solid again.

“That’s what it’s about. I told him I don’t care if I’m a little right or a little left, as long as I hit the ball solid. We got back to hitting the ball really crisp. When I do that I can score low, and that gives me a lot of confidence.”

DiMarco thinks a rib injury he suffered in 2005 ultimately went to his shoulder and affected his swing. Smith thought DiMarco’s struggles were a result of the injury.

“It just basically got me doing the wrong things,” DiMarco said. “You Band-Aid your swing to avoid pain. ... I’ve always had a real simple swing, and it just wasn’t there. I was hitting the ball real unsolid.

“Today was extremely solid with my irons, which is what my strength has always been.”

Welcome to Firestone

Thursday was introduction day at the Bridgestone Invitational. Other than the two practice rounds, some golfers were making their first appearance at Firestone Country Club.

Sweden’s Daniel Chopra came in not knowing what to expect.

“Pretty tough golf course, really,” Chopra said. Tough, but not overwhelming. Chopra quickly put himself in contention after shooting 3-under-par 67. He said the length of Firestone makes the course challenging

“It’s very difficult to put the ball in the fairway for the longer hitters.”

Hey, it’s you

Chez Reavie was an unknown rookie before he won the Canadian Open. Playing in his first WGC event, he was easily recognizable to the gallery at Firestone.

“I’m really surprised,” Reavie said. “That makes it a lot of fun. It just shows you how many people watch golf nowadays, thanks to Tiger (Woods). Everyone in the crowd is congratulating me, saying ‘Good playing last week. We’re happy for you.’ They’ve shown a lot of support.”

The Canadian Open victory qualified Reavie for the Bridgestone Invitational.

What a moment

Rocco Mediate will never forget the epic sudden-death playoff battle he and Woods had at this year’s U.S. Open.

“The privilege of doing that on that stage was the coolest thing that will ever happen to me in golf, no matter how many tournaments I win or if I do that 10 more times and lose in the playoffs,” Mediate said. “Nothing will ever top that.”

Woods came back from a shot down on No. 18 to force an 18-hole playoff and beat Mediate on the first hole of sudden death.

Special invite

Mediate was one of 14 golfers President Bush invited to the White House for dinner on the Fourth of July. He said the president watched he and Woods square off in the Open playoff.

“He just said he loved watching it, and it was cool,” Mediate said.

Sifford saluted

World Golf Hall of Fame member Charlie Sifford is this year’s Ambassador of Golf honoree. The 86-year-old Sifford, a five-time National Negro Open winner in the 1950s, is credited with breaking down golf’s “Caucasian only” rule. He earned his first PGA player card at age 39 and won twice on the tour. Sifford, a Highland Heights resident, was honored at a reception Wednesday at Firestone.

Reach Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or e-mail