Big John Flirting with Tragedy
First of all, John should be roundly commended for going public with the gambling sickness. He discusses his illness in the final chapter of his book, John Daly: My Life In and Out of the Rough. Not many gambling addicts would do what he has done, obviously. Daly is crying out for help with his description of the millions hes wasted. Unfortunately, theres nothing you, I or anyone else can do until he hits rock bottom and winds up penniless.
This is difficult for me to comprehend. I had a brief flirtation with casinos about 30 years ago, on a penny-ante scale. My first visit, I won a little by playing blackjack ' maybe $20 after three or four hours of wagering. That got the blood pumping furiously and led me to believe that I could really play ' all I would have to do is play long enough and I could win $200, maybe $300 in a days worth of action. (OK, small potatoes, but this was a journalist playing in the 1970s at the $2 tables.)
Well, I quickly learned that I couldnt win a whole lot that way. So I occasionally ' very occasionally ' would play a $100 bill. And more often than not, I would win the big bet out of nothing but dumb luck. That is, until the time that I lost $600 in about 15 minutes. I had about $5 left in my wallet.
I sat there stunned, not believing how cold this game could be. Six hundred dollars in 15 minutes time! Suddenly, this wasnt fun anymore ' this was deadly serious. The blood drained from my face and I was thoroughly embarrassed by my stupidity. Now, I occasionally still play, but I am back to small potatoes, and I have no trouble keeping myself on a strict budget when I do venture into a casino.
Well, enough of the personal sob story. This is about Daly, and it is about a man who will eventually have to accept the fact that he will lose far more often than he will win ' thats how casinos were built, after all. We all have heard the story about so-and-sos friend who won $20,000 playing baccarat at a casino. We never hear about how many times so-and-so lost before he finally made the biggie.
This, though, keeps the John Dalys of the world coming back. They hit the big one a couple of times, and theyre hooked ' or, more accurately, develop the sickness. And believe me, its a sickness, as much as any illness can be called a sickness.
Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had a chat with Daly about the problem when the details of Dalys book were made public this week. And I can just guess what the gist of the conversation was about.
It was probably about the fact that such huge gambling losses put a person in a real hole morally and make it possible for all sorts of shady characters to get to him. A person who has lost $30 million is susceptible to all kinds of scenarios, none of them good. Gambling on golf is difficult, but it certainly can be done ' witness the numerous bet shops in Britain.
Its very difficult, true, for any one player - especially a person who is an also-ran like Daly has become - to have an effect on the final outcome. But no doubt it can be done, and if it can be done, the person would be one ' like Daly ' who already owes huge gambling debts. And if there is enough money potentially involved, then the vermin types will surely be lurking in the shadows, waiting for that one vulnerable person to finally cave in.
Finchem probably also reminded Daly of the killer schedule he has to keep to support his sickness. Daly says he has to play golf almost every day to keep bringing in money to pay his debts ' either money obtained from tournaments, corporate outings or personal appearances. Daly is running around exhausted, frankly. And his play this year proves it.
Daly says he has licked his fondness for the Jack Daniels bottle. Hes licked his penchant for doing stupid things when he gets drunk. Hes licked his suicidal urges. But the thing he hasnt licked ' and it is without question the biggest problem of all for a person with access to big sums of income ' is the gambling urge.
He said he has learned a lesson after the $30 million of losses and now will start at the $25 slots when he enters a casino. A walkout loss number, he says, should tell him when its time to get up and leave. If he makes a little, he will graduate to $100 or $500 slots.
That, of course, is horse hockey. If he wins a little, there is no way he will stop until he has lost another $500,000. If he doesnt win, in fact, there is no way he will stop when the walkout number is surpassed. Just like any addict in any walk of life, he is hoping for the one big score that will put him over the top, clear of his obligations.
But, of course, he cant. The only antidote for a gambling addict is to stay totally away from gambling. And Daly is a long way from getting to that point.
John, subconsciously, is crying out for help. His story will resonate with so many people who would love to throw him a lifeline. But its as if someone is being swept out to sea on a dark stormy night, and we are helpless to prevent the tragedy from happening. Daly and his addiction - his sickness ' are linked arm in arm. Only the Creator Himself can make him turn back.
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McIlroy gets back on track
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.
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.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
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.
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.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
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.
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.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
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.
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.