Daly Having Career Year
He has never played on a Ryder Cup team, despite winning the PGA Championship (1991) and British Open (1995) in Ryder Cup years. He has never played in the Tour Championship - the PGA Tour's version of the All-Star game - because his game is not consistently among the best.
This might be his best chance to change that.
It's hard to imagine Daly doing anything quietly, especially with the raucous crowd that tags along wherever he plays, but he has managed to sneak into position for his best year on tour.
'Definitely, the Ryder Cup is on my mind,' Daly said Sunday after his runner-up finish in the Buick Open moved him up to No. 20 in the standings. 'I would love to be a part of that team. I feel like I could help the team the way I'm playing right now, solid as I'm hitting it. And I've got a little bit of confidence. I think that's what the captain would want.'
Daly would have to finish second at the PGA Championship next week to have any chance of getting into the top 10 and earning a spot on the team.
Still, U.S. captain Hal Sutton has reason to take notice.
Not only did Daly beat a world-class field at Torrey Pines earlier this year for his first U.S. victory on the PGA Tour in 10 years, but he has shown signs of being a complete player more than any other time in his career.
His runner-up finish to Vijay Singh at the Buick Open on Sunday was his fifth top-10 finish of the year, matching a career high set in 1992. He has earned $2.1 million - Daly had never made more than $828,914 in a single season - to climb to 14th on the money list, moving him closer to securing a spot in his first Tour Championship.
Remember those rounds where Daly seemed to give up? He has only one score in the 80s this year, and that was the final round of The Players Championship, when he had to go for broke in a bid to get into the Masters (he got in, anyway).
Daly has missed at least eight cuts in each of his previous 13 years on tour. This year, the only two cuts he has missed were the Masters and the British Open.
And the latest PGA Tour statistics Monday indicate what kind of year he is having. Daly is No. 1 in the all-around ranking, a combination of eight key categories. He is third in driving distance and third in putting.
'I played with John many a times. Gosh, he hits the ball, and he chipped and putted, and his iron shots ... I don't think anyone else could have played any better than that,' Singh said.
Daly took great pride winning in February at Torrey Pines, not only because he had not won in the United States since 1994, but because it was the first time he won with Tiger Woods in the field.
Equally meaningful was his runner-up finish Sunday at the Buick Open.
Daly started the final round two shots behind Singh, then erased that deficit with an explosive start that sent the pro-Daly gallery into a frenzy - birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie.
Only a player of Singh's ability could withstand that kind of pressure from Daly's game and his crowd. Singh figured he was headed for a playoff when he missed a 6-foot par putt on the final hole but got a reprieve when Daly misread his 5-footer for par to force a playoff.
'Hal will really have to look at his performance,' Singh said. 'The way John was hitting the driver, gosh, it was not only long, but pretty straight, too. And he's rolling his ball. He should be considered. I don't know if he's going to be picked. There's a good chance, I think.'
Daly might be the people's choice, although Sutton has other choices to consider - Jerry Kelly, Scott Verplank, Stewart Cink and Jay Haas are ahead of Daly in the standings and have proven themselves over the last two years.
If he is left off the team, it wouldn't be the first time.
His timing hasn't been the best.
For 10 years, the reigning PGA champion was an automatic selection to the Ryder Cup team. That changed in 1991, the year Daly went from the ninth alternate at Crooked Stick to the ultimate Cinderella story in golf by overpowering the field to win his first major.
He had gone 26 tournaments without a top 10 when he won the '95 British Open at St. Andrews. Daly needed to finish fifth at the PGA Championship that year to earn a spot on the team. He missed the cut at Riviera, and captain Lanny Wadkins went with experience by taking Fred Couples and Curtis Strange.
Daly's career has been too unpredictable to be an obvious captain's pick. He has been thinking about the Ryder Cup ever since winning in February, but he's not about to lobby Sutton.
'That's his decision,' Daly said. 'I just know if I do get picked, I would be ready. And I'd love to play.'
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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might
Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.
“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”
Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”
“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”
Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)
Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”
Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.
“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"
As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.
Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”
McIlroy: Ryder Cup won't be as easy as USA thinks
The Americans have won their past two international team competitions by a combined score of 38-22, but Rory McIlroy isn’t expecting another pushover at the Ryder Cup in September.
McIlroy admitted that the U.S. team will be strong, and that its core of young players (including Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler) will be a force for the next decade. But he told reporters Tuesday at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship that course setup will play a significant role.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said, referring to the Americans’ 17-11 victory in 2016. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
At every Ryder Cup, the home team has the final say on course setup. Justin Rose was the most outspoken about the setup at Hazeltine, saying afterward that it was “incredibly weak” and had a “pro-am feel.”
And so this year’s French Open figures to be a popular stop for European Tour players – it’s being held once again at Le Golf National, site of the matches in September. Tommy Fleetwood won last year’s event at 12 under.
“I’m confident,” McIlroy said. “Everything being all well and good, I’ll be on that team and I feel like we’ll have a really good chance.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that. The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
Floodlights may be used at Dubai Desert Classic
No round at next week’s Dubai Desert Classic will be suspended because of darkness.
Tournament officials have installed state-of-the-art floodlighting around the ninth and 18th greens to ensure that all 132 players can finish their round.
With the event being moved up a week in the schedule, the European Tour was initially concerned about the amount of daylight and trimmed the field to 126 players. Playing under the lights fixed that dilemma.
“This is a wonderful idea and fits perfectly with our desire to bring innovation to our sport,” European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said. “No professional golfer ever wants to come back the following morning to complete a round due to lack of daylight, and this intervention, should it be required, will rule out that necessity.”
Next week’s headliners include Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.