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Sunday, February 27, 2005
Updated: March 2, 4:19 PM ET
Toms, DiMarco are friends and rivals

By Jason Sobel
ESPN.com

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Boy, that David Toms sure knows how to rub it in.

Last fall, his LSU Tigers beat Chris DiMarco's Florida Gators, 24-21, on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 27 seconds left.

And now this -- a 6 and 5 victory over DiMarco in the final of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Chris DiMarco, David Toms
Toms got the best of DiMarco in the Match Play final.

Knowing what we do about DiMarco, we can guess which one was more painful.

Hint: It's not the golf.

Sure, it's his livelihood, but this is a guy who spent the early part of his professional career driving to tournaments in an orange, blue and white van. The same guy who received a phone call from then-Florida football coach Steve Spurrier after his first career tour win at the Pennsylvania Classic in 2000.

"I'm better than I used to be, but I'm still loud," DiMarco told Golf Digest about his cheering tactics at Gators' football games. "Pretty rowdy, actually. My brothers and I, plus friends. Food and beverages. If it's a 3:00 game, we're there at noon. We've had a few confrontations with fans from other schools."

Surely that includes those from LSU.

No PGA Tour players are more closely identified with their colleges than DiMarco and Toms, and the extreme fanaticism for their schools didn't start with freshman year. DiMarco's father moved the family to Florida when he was in first grade and young Chris instantly became a Gators' supporter. Toms is a Bayou Bengal all the way, born and raised in Shreveport, La., where purple and gold are really the only two colors you're allowed to cheer for.

Known as a great ambassador for the school, Toms even served as honorary captain at the Tulane/LSU football game in 2001.

"Man, the adrenaline rush of being out there with the fans cheering -- it was neat," Toms said. "I didn't want to go back to my seat."

As SEC golfers, they often competed head-to-head and were quite successful. Toms owns the LSU record with six individual titles; DiMarco's seven wins stood as the Florida standard until last year.

And that spawned a unique relationship between the two men; they're bitter rivals, but also great friends.

"We've played a lot of practice rounds together. We both have families. We both do a lot together that way. You find your six, seven, eight guys out here that you're close with, and he's one of them," DiMarco said on the eve of the final.

Yet moments later he regales in telling the story of his Florida golf team defeating top-ranked LSU by 17 shots at the SEC Championship.

"We have a lot of things to talk about," Toms said. "We have rivalries. We go back and forth all year long, whatever sport we're playing."

On Sunday, that sport just happened to be the one they get paid to play. It wasn't close. All square through the first nine holes, Toms proceeded to win seven of the next eight, essentially sealing the match.

For Toms, the victory was bittersweet, beating a friend -- badly -- on a worldwide stage.

For DiMarco, the second-place finish is another in a long line of close calls and coulda-beens, including last year's PGA Championship.

But there's always next time.

After all, football season is right around the corner.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com