Daley's long journey lands him at The Players

By Doug FergusonApril 30, 2013, 7:12 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Joe Daley learned at rookie orientation that as a PGA Tour member, he had access to the vast TPC network. He was at Tour headquarters that week and wasted no time taking advantage of this perk, sneaking out to play TPC Sawgrass and holing out from the 10th fairway for an eagle.

That was December 1995.

Ben Crenshaw was the Masters champion. Tiger Woods was a two-time U.S. Amateur champion in his second year at Stanford.

Daley could not have imagined it would take him more than 17 years to get back to Sawgrass, and certainly not under these circumstances. He finally returns next week, at 52, the oldest player to make his debut in The Players Championship.

''I've played a lot of courses between then and now,'' Daley said.

The most significant course was Fox Chapel in Pittsburgh, where last July he won the Seniors Players Championship by two shots over Tom Lehman to earn a spot in The Players, the tournament with the strongest field and richest purse.

That he never played Sawgrass except for that casual round is not surprising. Daley only had two full years on Tour. He spent 10 full years in the minors, long enough to play under three umbrella sponsors – Nike Tour, Buy.com Tour and Nationwide Tour. When he turned 50, he had to Monday qualify for Champions Tour events. He finally got his big break with a 66-64 weekend in the Senior PGA Championship to tie for fourth, which made him eligible for the Senior Players.

And here he is.

''It's a lot of years of hard work, man,'' he said. ''It's pretty cool.''

To put some of that into perspective, the winner of The Players gets $1.71 million. That's nearly as much as Daley's earnings ($1.96 million) in two decades playing the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour and what is now called the Web.com Tour.

Other than his two wins in the minor leagues and his one big win on the Champions Tour, the highlights have been limited.

Daley, who didn't start chasing his dream until he was 32, remembers the first time he played a PGA Tour event. He was a Monday qualifier for the old Anheuser-Busch Classic at Kingsmill, made the cut and wound up getting paired with Curtis Strange in the third round.

''I had to remember to breathe on the first tee,'' he said.

He was playing in the final round at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996, when a 20-year-old making his pro debut – Woods – had a hole-in-one. And, in 2000, he became the image of all that can go wrong at Q-School, which even now might be what Daley is remembered for the most. He rapped in a 4-foot par putt that dropped into the bottom of the cup at such an angle that it popped back out. Daley was so stunned that he flung his cap to the ground. He wound up missing his card by one shot.

''I've had people overseas say, 'I know you.' And that happened 12 years ago,'' Daley said with a laugh.

There are other highlights only Daley would appreciate.

Like the time he joined a group that included Woody Austin and Doug Dunakey for a tour into South America, where the prize money was paid in cash in the back room of a pro shop. He remembers his first U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2000, where he followed an 83 with a 69 and still missed the cut. Looking for a place to play a few years ago when he turned 50, Daley played a developmental tour in Carolina and tied for third, while walking and carrying his own bag.

''We still love the journey,'' he said. ''And it's been a cool journey.''

This much can be said of Daley: He devotes all his energy into whatever he is doing, and it took him awhile to realize that all he wanted was to play golf for a living. He was a walk-on for the golf team at Old Dominion and earned his degree in finance. Having spent so much time around country clubs as a kid – first as a caddie, then in the kitchen, later as a waiter – he decided to put his college studies to use.

Daley's specialty was credit management, a career that was going along fine except that he didn't have much time to play amateur events. In an era of hostile takeovers, his company was bought and then streamlined. Daley hated the idea of laying off people, so he quit and worked for a small company as a credit manager.

''I still wanted to play golf for a living,'' he said. ''I figured out I needed to be in better shape. So I saved up some money and quit my job in '92, got on a flight and flew to Vancouver and qualified for the Canadian Tour. I went broke and went back to Florida.''

His wife, Carol, was a teacher. Daley took a job as a banquet waiter at night, allowing him to play, practice and go to the gym in the day.

He tried (and failed) Q-School. He went to South America and South Africa, wherever he could find a place to play. His two years on the PGA Tour (1996 and 1998) brought him career earnings of $155,532 – about what Marcel Siem earned for his tie for 10th in the Texas Open – so he toiled in the minor leagues. If he ever felt like giving up, Daley leaned on a friend in Virginia Beach, Va., an accountant who left a standing offer of a job, along with a subtle hint.

''He said, 'If you ever get tired of that, I'll put you to work. But there are millions of people who would love to do what you're doing,''' Daley said. ''After every year, I asked my wife, 'Are you cool with this, honey?' And she always said yes.''

Daley made just over $1 million in all his years in the minor leagues, not much considering all the hotel rooms and the miles he put on four used cars.

He was driven by pure passion. He learned the value of working hard, eating right and getting plenty of rest. He studied other players and was honest about his own shortcomings as a player. For 20 years, he tried to figure out how to get better after every round and every tournament.

After winning the Senior Players, he said in his press conference, ''I'm my own competition. Have been for years.''

Such is the nature of golf and why Daley loves this game so much. One of the greatest appeals of golf is the process of getting better. It's what keeps him going even at 52. He knows that a positive attitude and hard work can go a long way, even if he had to wait a long time for it to pay off.

Vegas lists Woods at 20-1 to win a major in 2018

By Will GrayNovember 22, 2017, 12:53 pm

He hasn't hit a competitive shot in nearly a year, but that hasn't stopped one Las Vegas outlet from listing Tiger Woods among the favorites to win a major in 2018.

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook published betting odds this week on dozens of players to win any of the four majors next year. Leading the pack were Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at 3/2, with Rory McIlroy next. But not far behind was Woods, who has been sidelined since February because of a back injury but was listed at 20/1.

Woods will make his much-anticipated return next week at the Hero World Challenge, and next month he will turn 42. Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of his last major championship victory, a sudden-death playoff win over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Here's a look at the odds for several marquee players on winning any of the four biggest events in golf next year:

3/2: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

5/2: Rory McIlroy

7/2: Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day

9/2: Justin Rose

5/1: Brooks Koepka

15/2: Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey

10/1: Adam Scott

12/1: Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Marc Leishman, Thomas Pieters, Patrick Reed

15/1: Daniel Berger, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Branden Grace, Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson

20/1: Tiger Woods, Francesco Molinari, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Tony Finau, Martin Kaymer

25/1: Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell, Bryson DeChambeau, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Charley Hoffman

30/1: Pat Perez, Gary Woodland, Bernd Wiesberger, Brian Harman, Padraig Harrington, Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher, Si Woo Kim, J.B. Holmes

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.