You Are John Daly

By Brian HewittAugust 9, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- You are John Daly and heres how you prepare for the 89th PGA Championship:
 
You arrive Tuesday. You register. You play a practice round Wednesday on the golf course at a nearby Cherokee Indian casino. You get your first look at Southern Hills Thursday morning. And you shoot 67 which makes you the leader in the clubhouse.
 
You are John Daly and heres how you battle the searing heat of Tulsa where temperatures have been pushing triple digits every day:
 
I didnt drink one bit of water, you say after your round. I had Diet Cokes, Diet Pepsis.
 
You are John Daly and youve withdrawn (for a variety of reasons) from 10 of your last 63 events prompting the Boston Globe to suggest you change your nickname from JD to WD:
 
My shoulder pops in and out, you say. It was sore the last four or five holes.
 
You are John Daly, the 1991 PGA champion, but you rank 173rd on the FedExCup point standings:
 
If I didnt think I could win any more, I wouldnt be playing, you say. But I really cant think about winning right now because my confidence isnt quite that high.
 
You are John Daly, the Paul Bunyan of golf, and your trials and tribulations have been more public than the Congressional Record. One of your wives has spent time in jail. Your history is littered with drinking bouts, gambling sprees and trashed hotel rooms yet you remain one of the two or three most popular players, among the fans, in the game:
 
I Just keep going, you say when asked how you manage to deal with the soap opera that is your life. Just gotta keep on plugging and keep going.
 
You are John Daly and somebody wants you to comment on whether you think your life would drive a sports psychologist insane:
 
To be a sports psychologist you gotta be insane to listen to all our (expletive deleted) weve got to talk about, you say. And after the laughter in the pressroom dies down, you add, I dont know. I mean, I think I just answered that pretty damn good there.
 
You are John Daly and youre asked why you played well Thursday in a round that included 14 greens hit in regulation, four birdies and one bogey:
 
I have no idea, you say.
 
You are John Daly, still one of the longest drivers in golf at the unripe old age of 41, and a man wants to know how many drivers you hit Thursday at Southern Hills, a course with limited opportunities for power players:
 
I honestly cant remember, you say. I only had three heat strokes out there.
 
You are John Daly and somebody else wants to know if you think you will be able to withstand the high temperatures forecast for all four days in Tulsa:
 
I grew up around this area (Arkansas), you say. Im used to kind of little valleys where you dont get a lot of'you dont get any air and theres a lot of humidity and its tough to breathe. I light up a cigarette and drink some caffeine and it actually works.
 
You are John Daly. You are overweight. You are out of shape. And you are four shots ahead of Tiger Woods, one of the best-conditioned athletes in the world, after 18 holes:
 
There was odds with all the caddies and players this week who would fall first, me or my caddie, you say. So we made it. We made 18 holes.
 
You are John Daly and you are a hero once again, to all the assembled columnists. There is a phrase among the wags called room service. And it is used in the sportswriting vernacular to describe a story that is hand-delivered:
 
You are John Daly and you are room service Thursday.
 
I did something I havent done in a long time in this heat, you say. I went behind the hole, reading putts.bent over looking at some putts, stuff I havent done.
 
You are John Daly and you are playing on sponsors exemptions this year because you lost your card. You world ranking has plummeted to No. 423.
 
I think everybody is a little different, you say.
 
You are right about that part.
 
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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.

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    McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

    Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

    The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

    McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.