The Daly Show Remains a Big Hit on TOUR
As a result, Daly lost his card.
But not his appeal.
How else to explain why tournaments would trip over themselves to give sponsor exemptions to someone who has missed the cut, withdrawn or been disqualified from 45 percent of his PGA TOUR events since his rookie season in 1991?
'I always get three questions,' Kym Hougham, tournament director of the prestigious Wachovia Championship, said Tuesday. 'Is Tiger coming? Is Fred Couples coming? Is John Daly coming? As strong a field as we had, people still thought it was important to have him.'
Wachovia certain didn't need any help selling tickets. It had 27 of the top 30 players in the world, the fifth-strongest field this year behind THE PLAYERS Championship, two World Golf Championships and the Masters.
What did Daly bring to Quail Hollow?
Those who joined his circus in the second round could say they watched him hit a milestone with his 50th career round in the 80s on the PGA TOUR. He was 1 under par through seven holes and still managed to shoot 87.
Give him credit. He counted every shot and signed for the correct score. There ought to be FedExCup bonus points for that.
'I know he had a tough day here,' Hougham said. 'I didn't see any of the shots. But I was still glad to have him in the field. John is loved by the people. And we all have a responsibility to put people on the golf course that the paying public wants to see. Does his star remain bright? He's good for the gate, good for the crowd, good for concessions.'
There shouldn't be a question whether Daly deserves so many sponsor exemptions.
Even though it seems like a fading memory, he did capture two major championships in unforgettable style. One was the 1991 PGA Championship, when he drove through the night to Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate and introduced golf to his 'grip-it-and-rip-it' ways. The other was the British Open, always special when a claret jug is hoisted at St. Andrews.
His other three PGA TOUR titles don't stand out nearly as much as the three divorces, two trips to alcohol rehab, outrageous tales of gambling losses, trashed hotel rooms and suspensions.
No doubt, he brings flavor to a vanilla sport.
And that's not all.
'One thing I know he'll bring -- fans,' said Larry Peck, golf marketing manager for Buick, after announcing that Daly would get an exemption to the Buick Open at the end of June.
'John Daly has been so good to the Buick Open,' Peck said. 'He's done clinics. He comes to the skyboxes to shake hands with our clients. We feel like we owe it to John to let him in. And it's self-serving. Fans love him. They come out to watch. He asked for an exemption, and we didn't even flinch. Yes, of course.'
Daly is not missing the cut on purpose, best anyone can tell.
He has been dealing with injuries, most recently a shoulder problem that first surfaced at the Honda Classic when Daly tried to stop his warp-speed swing upon noticing a fan trying to take his picture. He tried to play the next week in Tampa, only to withdraw in the second round when he couldn't keep two hands on the club.
But with a history of so many MCs, WDs and DQs, Daly needs an MRI to convince people he's really hurt.
It was the same story last year. A sciatic nerve problem forced him to withdraw after the first round of three straight tournaments in the summer. A broken pinky kept him from playing the last two weeks of the year. Thankfully, he healed in time for the silly season.
Most players in Daly's position write letters asking for an exemption, then hope for the best.
Daly already had 20 offers by Christmas.
He even received an exemption late last year to the Target World Challenge, which takes top players available from the world ranking and extends four invitations. How did Daly merit an invitation at No. 147 in the world and winless since 2004?
'Anywhere he goes, he brings one of the biggest galleries,' tournament host Tiger Woods said. 'We're running a business, and we're trying to make as much money as we possibly can to put everything to our learning center.'
The exemptions continue to pour in, even as Daly continues to pull out.
Still uncertain was whether his ailing shoulder would allow him to take another exemption next week at the Memorial, where in 14 trips to Muirfield Village he has seven rounds in the 80s, two WDs, four MCs and his best finish was a tie for 11th.
'Our captain's committee pays a lot of attention to all the players out there,' tournament director Dan Sullivan said in explaining the invitation to Daly. 'Two things come to mind. He's always supported the Memorial well, and he's a fan favorite.'
And one of the great appeals of Daly is you never know what will happen next.
He wrote in his autobiography about the dismal state of his life and his game a dozen years ago. He was missing the cut every third tournament. He got married, became a father, got divorced, got remarried, became a father again, tried to stop drinking and built nearly $4 million in gambling debts.
'Going into the 1995 British Open, I was a train wreck,' he wrote. 'And yet somehow, I felt pretty good about my chances.'
That's the thing with Daly. He keeps everyone guessing.
And maybe that's why they keep watching.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.
Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.
Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.
So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.
How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:
1. Stay healthy
So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.
Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.
Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.
2. Figure out his driver
Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.
That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.
In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.
Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron.
Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”
That won’t be the case at Augusta.
3. Clean up his iron play
As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.
At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.
Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.
That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.
Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”
4. Get into contention somewhere
As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.
In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.
“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”
Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.
And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go.
“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”
Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.
Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA
Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.
The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.
According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.
Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.
The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.
Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.
Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.
“Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.
Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.
Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”
With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.
Thomas was asked about that.
“I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.
“I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”
Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.
“It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.
“I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”
Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.
“That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”
Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.
“Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.
Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.
McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.
“Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said. “That's what he said.”
The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.
The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.
“He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”