Old Course Old Daly

By Rex HoggardJuly 15, 2010, 5:34 pm

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – On a day when you could hardly make out the Auld Gray Toon from the Old Course’s fifth tee box, a name atop the Open Championship leaderboard looked as familiar as a past-parallel backswing.

If John Daly was awakening ghosts of Opens past on Thursday in the Kingdom of Fife, they would be welcome spirits from a far-to-often sordid past.

On the flight to the United Kingdom Daly was asked by his longtime girlfriend Anna Cladakis what it was about the Old Course that inspired him. His answer was simply, “It’s magical.” On Thursday on a gray, windless day Daly had some magic of his own going, birdieing five of his first nine holes for an opening 66 that could, if fate and the fickle Scottish weather allow, make a career many thought long finished reappear.

On a links course that has a warm blanket feel to Daly, he hit driver with abandon and precision and lag-putted his way into the conversation. Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The only thing missing was the mullet.

In the 15 years since Daly made his mark with his Open Championship stunner at St. Andrews he’s lost some six stone (that’s about 80 pounds on this side of the pond) but added more baggage than one man can, or should, bear. That Daly’s damage was largely self-inflicted didn’t seem to matter as he roamed familiar fairways with a well-known swagger.

Since that magical 1995 championship Daly has been in and out of alcohol rehab, divorce court and the Tour hot seat for conduct so unbecoming it’s cost him nearly $100,000, according to a Jacksonville Times-Union report last year.

Less than five months ago he looked into a Golf Channel camera and said, essentially, he was done with professional golf. It seems pro golf wasn’t done with him.

John Daly
Daly rediscovered the same magic that led him to victory 15 years ago at the Old Course. (Getty Images)

“I’m 44 and I’ve learned a lot,” Daly said. “I’ve never run from my mistakes. I’ve always been honest with (the press). You know, it’s how you come back. For me, I’m on a comeback.”

To say the 2010 version of “Long John” is different from the swashbuckling kid who overpowered the ancient pitch in 1995 is a gross understatement. With the help of lap-band surgery Daly has his weight under control and thanks to Cladakis he has been able to keep the assortment of other vices that have caused so much pain at bay.

Daly has traded Diet Cokes for alcohol and other than an occasion chocolate fix his veracious appetite is a distant memory. He can, however, still overpower a golf course. On Thursday he hit 13 of 15 fairways, 17 of 18 greens in regulation and averaged a staggering 324 yards off the tee.

“My whole method about playing here is to worry about one bunker instead of five or six,” Daly said. “When I’m hitting the driver that well it takes a lot of things out of play.”

Daly also needed just 27 putts, including missed birdie opportunities at the 16th from 10 feet and 18th from 11 feet, prompting questions about how much better his round could have been, and the possibility that 1995 was an omen, not an aberration, of things to come.

Savor the numbers, if not the possibilities, of a Daly Old Course double. He’s currently ranked 455th in the world, was tabbed a distant 250-to-1 long shot by the betting houses and hasn’t finished in the top 10 in any event since last May (Italian Open).

On Tuesday Tiger Woods was asked if a victory this week in St. Andrews could help him along his road to redemption. For JD a second claret jug collected at the home of golf could finally stop his journey down a road to nowhere.

But that’s putting the trophy before the trials.

A win of any variety is Daly’s ultimate goal, be it PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour. A win at St. Andrews would help make sense of a lifetime of gluttony. The new and improved Daly – clad in what he called paiseltine pants (“The good thing about them is if you get dressed in the dark, any shirt is going to match,” he smiled.) – was asked if his “Wild Thing” nickname from a former life still applied.

“I don’t know, Mild Thing,” he said.

But that doesn’t work either. At least not on Thursday when he bombed drive after drive over the most cynical collection of bunkers known to man or sheep. Daly fell in love with the storied links in the 1994 Dunhill Cup and once told a friend before his ’95 victory that he could “own the place.”

“There’s just something peaceful about this place,” said Daly, a man in great need of peace for much of his life. “Whether the wind is blowing 50 mph or it’s a calm day like today, it’s just one of those places that I just love.”

As Daly made his way up the 18th fairway on Thursday a member of his inner circle couldn’t help himself, “It’s like a religious experience.” Daly played his next shot, with a putter, through the Valley of Sin. It was an apropos metaphor for a life that has been filled with far more swales than peaks, and the subtext to the week’s most important question: What’s next?

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm