It all changed with more signature moments Sunday in the Bay Hill Invitational persented by MasterCard, a tournament that always seems to have the last laugh.
'I did the best I could,' Daly said. 'One of these years, I'm going to finish strong on this golf course.'
Sunday would have been a great time for that.
Daly is trying desperately to qualify for the Masters, and he was in great shape coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. He was 11 under par, tied for third, which would have been enough to move him into the top 50 and keep him comfortably inside the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list.
Those are the two final criteria for getting to Augusta National. The cutoff is next week.
Daly usually hits driver on the par-4 15th, taking it out over the houses and around the trees. This time, the drive went a little too far right and disappeared among the cars by the NBC television compound, well out-of-bounds. He had to hit again from the tee, and made double bogey.
'It was a little windy,' Daly said. 'I didn't think it would be out of bounds. It was weird, because it ended up way right of where I hit it.'
That dropped him into a tie for sixth, but Daly bounced back with a 25-foot eagle on the par-5 16th.
Then, his tee shot on the par-3 17th nearly dropped back into the water.
Daly chipped to 8 feet and made bogey. Still, he was in a tie for fifth, poised to gain valuable world ranking points.
His drive on the final hole ricocheted off a TV truck that holds the camera, which was a huge break - otherwise, it would have landed in the lake. Daly was aiming to the left front of the green.
'It squirted right,' he said. 'What can you do?'
He watched it splash into the water, and he was hitting fourth shot to the green, landing it some 80 feet away. Three putts later, Daly had a triple bogey and was tied for 10th.
Chad Campbell's victory bumped Daly down one notch to No. 9 on the money list. Instead of cracking the top 50 in the world ranking, he likely will be in the mid-50s when the ranking is published Monday.
The good news? He still has The Players Championship, the richest purse in golf.
'I feel like I've played well enough,' Daly said. 'I think there are a lot of guys that won tournaments last year after Augusta that should be in it. I've always believed if you win a tournament out here, you should be playing there, at least Augusta and the U.S. Open. But they have their rules.'
Daly got into position for the Masters by winning the Buick Invitational, his first victory on the PGA Tour in nine years. And despite the wild finish, he is playing some of his best golf.
'I hate to end like that because I love the way I'm playing,' he said.
It could have been worse.
Six years ago, Daly made an 18 on the par-5 sixth hole in the final round. In 2000, he closed with an 87.
He was steady most of the week, although the big numbers didn't help his cause.
'There's not many guys who could make five doubles and a triple and still finish in the top 10,' Daly said. 'I'm setting records everywhere.'
His math was a little off -- he only made four double bogeys and a triple bogey this week at Bay Hill.
Still, the only math that matters is calculating his money and world ranking.
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