Harmon Will Demand Commitment From Daly

By Brian HewittJanuary 9, 2008, 5:00 pm
The off-season was filled with talk about how John Daly and Butch Harmon - partners with Natalie Gulbis on an amusing series of TV spots for a golf club grip manufacturer - were going to put their heads together in the off-season and the early part of 2008.
 
Daly said he finally wanted a formal instructor. Harmon didnt say no.
 
But when Daly finally picked up the phone and called Harmon a couple of weeks ago to schedule time before jetting to Hawaii for the Sony Open, Harmon said, No.
 
No, not that kind of No. Harmon told Daly he was going to be on vacation. Unspoken here was the message that Butch wants Daly to hear loud and clear: Im only interested in working with you if youre interested in working on golf.
 
Or as Harmon put it, in his own words, to me: Johns got to take care of himself mentally and physically. Hes assured me that he will.
 
The 41-year-old Daly, who has won two major championships, does not currently have an all-exempt TOUR card and is playing mostly on sponsors exemptions.
 
A good dose of reality has set in, Harmon said. The last time I talked to him I told him that Ill give 100 per cent when were together but Ive got to get 100 per cent in return. Otherwise itll be a waste of time. Its time for John to get his butt off the couch and step up to the plate.
 
If Daly doesnt hook up with Harmon in Las Vegas, he will have to fight for Butchs time at either the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in mid-February or the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson the following week. Those are Harmons next two scheduled appearances on TOUR to work with players.
 
Thing is, Daly cant be guaranteed of receiving a sponsors exemption to Riviera, although he did shoot 68-69 on the weekend there last year for one of his two top-25 finishes in 2007. Daly wound up 188th on the money list last year, missing 10 cuts and withdrawing six times in the 24 events he entered.
 
Nor is Daly, who has plummeted to No. 525 in the world rankings, likely to climb into the top 64 prior to Tucson, which means he wont make the field for that event.
 
In short, Dalys going to have to meet Harmon more than half way. Harmon is a Daly fan and believes he can still win. But a professional relationship between Daly and Harmon, if its going to have any legs at all, will have to happen on Harmons terms.
 
Can you say: Tough love?
 
Daly is expected to play in next weeks Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Buick Invitational where he is a past champion. His representatives say he is waiting to hear on requests for sponsors exemptions from the FBR Open in Arizona and the Northern Trust Open (Riviera) in California.
 

FREDDIES READY
Speaking of schedules, Fred Couples will also make his 2008 debut at the Bob Hope Desert Classic. His agent and close friend, Lynn Roach, says Couples back is healthier right now than it has been in a long time.
 
I expect a very full first part of the year for Fred, said Roach, who listed the Buick Invitational and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as also being on Couples early schedule.
 
Couples still works with Harmon who says he still thinks Couples can win on the PGA TOUR at the relatively-advanced age of 48. Freddies doing good work, Harmon said. Hes energized and feeling very good about his back. He seems to be more into it than hes been.
 

DEMSEYS FIGHT
One of the feel good stories at the Sony Open this week is Todd Demsey. Demsey has come back from two brain tumor surgeries. The tumors were benign but brain surgery is anything but easy on the system.
 
As of now, nothing more needs to be done, said Demsey who underwent an MRI two days after getting his card at last months Q-School. Physically Im 100 per cent.
 
Demsey will undergo another MRI in five months.
 

UBER OBER
Arron Oberholser, ranked No. 33 in the world, is still recovering from hand surgery late last year. But he says he hopes to return to the TOUR later this month.
 
I will not, however, Oberholser said through a spokesman this week, start playing again until I am completely ready.
 
Back problems delayed the start of Oberholsers 2007 campaign. The Oct. 31 surgery was to remove a loose fragment of the hamat bone in his left hand. The operation was deemed a success.
 
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    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

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    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.