Blasting into the week ahead . . .
Long John's old for his age
John Daly turned 43 on Tuesday.
Thats not old in golf these days. Vijay Singh has won 22 PGA Tour events in his 40s, more than anybody in history. If youre thinking its because he keeps himself so fit, what about Kenny Perry? At 48, Perry nearly won the Masters, which would have been his fifth victory over the last year. Retief Goosen just turned 40 and looks fit and rejuvenated. Tom Lehman contended at the Transitions Championship two weeks after turning 50. Davis Love III was 44 when he won at Disney last fall. Fred Couples will turn 50 in the fall and is still a factor.
But at 43, Daly seems old for his age, though he can convince us otherwise beginning this week.
Dalys making his first tournament appearance in four months in Thursdays first round of the Spanish Open on the European Tour. Its his first real action since his trio of missed cuts touring Australia in December.
That Daly is serious about being a factor again is clear in the fact that he underwent Lap-Band surgery two months ago, a procedure in which a silicone band is strapped around the upper portion of the stomach, limiting food intake. He reports having lost more than 40 pounds.
News that Daly lost the weight the old-fashioned way might have inspired confidence that he has found new discipline, but he has clearly taken a committed step toward improving his game. With his six-month PGA Tour suspension nearing an end, with Daly saying bankruptcy is nearly upon him, he has much motivation to draw upon. Still, you cant help being skeptical that hell make us take him seriously again. You do, after all, have those snapshots in your head, one where Dalys playing golf shirtless and shoeless with a cigarette dangling from his lips in Missouri a year ago and another where hes in his orange jail jump suit after his arrest outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C., last fall.
Of course, theres real genius in John Daly. Its how he created a persona that allows fans to forgive pretty much all his transgressions.
In the end, though, scorecards dont forgive. Its what we love and hate about golf. Dalys numbers will speak for themselves in this return to tour golf with speculation mounting that hell stay in Europe for a month or so before making his return to the PGA Tour at Memphis June 11-14.
Tiger vs. Lefty: The great Quail hunt
Tiger Woods looked as if he left Augusta National with a sense of urgency.
You wonder how much of that was a reaction to watching Phil Mickelson put up a 30 on the front nine in their final-round Masters pairing. Mickelson looked Woods in the eye and then nearly put together the greatest final round in a major since Johnny Miller shot 63 at Oakmont to win the U.S. Open in 1973. Yeah, Mickelson squandered a terrific chance to knock out Woods and everyone else, but the difference in their temperaments leaving the years first major said everything. Woods was last seen there kicking his golf bag, Mickelson beaming over how close he came to something historic.
Mickelson only beat Woods by a shot, but it felt like more. Mickelson looked like he was failing to capitalize on big chances on the back nine, Woods like he was getting as much as he possibly could out of his wayward swing.
Mickelson has taken his share of beat downs at the hands of Woods in majors like everyone else, but nobody gets off the mat with more relish than Mickelson. Nobody wants a piece of Woods more. Of course, nobody responds to being pushed as forcefully as Woods.
Whether youre a Tiger guy, or a Phil guy, or just a golf fan, the possibility of seeing a showdown with both playing at the Quail Hollow Championship this week excites.
While head-to-head duels among golfs stars occur so infrequently, Woods and Mickelson both have records of playing well at Quail Hollow. When Woods won there in 07, Mickelson finished tied for third, four shots back. Mickelson has three top-10 finishes there.
The possibility of seeing these two duel in the near future escalates as they prepare to play back-to-back weeks with The Players Championship scheduled next week.
Oh yeah, Cabreras back
Angel Cabrera will tee it up at Quail Hollow for the first time since winning the Masters.
After Cabrera won his first major, the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2007, it took him six months to crack the top 20 in another PGA Tour event.
Cabrera is more prepared for what follows a major this time. He says his aim is to win five majors before he retires. At 39, that doesnt allow for excessive celebration of this last title. Hell need his total focus at Quail Hollow. In his only appearance there, he shot 82 in the final round last year and finished 72nd.
And Kim, too . . .
Anthony Kims 11 birdies in the second round of the Masters reminded us what spectacular talent he possesses.
We needed reminding.
After opening this year tied for second at the Mercedes Benz Championship, Kim disappeared from leaderboards, heightening scrutiny once more over his work habits, or lack of them, a problem he acknowledged having to overcome before he won the Wachovia Championship last year. Quail Hollow is where Kim launched his career to another level, setting himself up for his second PGA Tour victory at the AT&T National in July and his Ryder Cup dramatics in September. His second-round brilliance at the Masters might have been a sign hes close to igniting another terrific run.
Theres nothing like a parade . . .
Kenny Perry will find some good medicine without hitting a shot on Thursday.
Perrys skipping the Quail Hollow Championship to join his father, Ken, as grand marshals of the Kentucky Derby Festivals 54th annual Pegasus Parade in Louisville. Perry, who felt the sting of losing the Masters in a playoff, three weeks ago, is sure to be cheered wildly by his fellow Kentuckians as he and his father make their way along the parade route. Perry, a native of Franklin, Ky., helped the United States win the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in Louisville last fall.
For a guy who lost a two-shot lead with two holes to play at Augusta National, Perrys getting a lot of love these days, thanks to the noble manner hes carried himself in defeat.
Perry may not be the favorite to win the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black June 18-21, but New Yorkers are likely to love this guy and his bid to erase those bad Masters memories with his first major championship triumph. Perrys return to the spotlight at the Zurich Classic last week didnt end so well with a 78 in the final round. We should get a better feel for whether he has another magical run in him when he tees it up at The Players Championship next week.
Lincicome makes the big show
Brittany Lincicome, winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, will throw out the first pitch Thursday at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays are host to the Boston Red Sox. Lincicome grew up in Pinellas Park, Fla., about 15 minutes from Tropicana Field. She said fellow members of the gym she works out at were insisting she not cheat and sneak up to the front of the mound. She works out at a sports rehabilitation facility that has a pitchers mound. Members there have been exhorting her to practice for her big pitch from the full 60 feet 6 inches.