In a sport which prefers a soft strain of piano, John Dalys a Merle Haggard song. Hes straight country, with a Marlboro hanging from his lips, and a truckfull of busted nights, busted marriages and busted tee balls. The victory at the BMW International puts an exclamation point on the comeback that should be a made-for-TV movie with a Nashville soundtrack. It restores his marketability overseas and allows him to improve his financial situation. Amazing, because this wasnt believed possible a year ago. There was still the specter of sevens and eights on any given hole and the occasional WD. That Daly had the mental and physical stamina to stay focused for four straight days at a high, high level is most gratifying of all. What now? Its always perilous to try to predict the future with John. But its sure rosier than its been in some time. And if the more-likely and consistent challengers to Tiger over the next few years figure to be Duval and Mickelson, the one who would bring the house down is John Daly tangling with Tiger on the backside at a longer and harder Augusta National.
Where Did She Come From?
Donna Caponi confided to me while I was in the booth for the First Union Betsy King Classic that Kate Golden had much more talent than her performance indicated. A week later Caponi looks like a prophet when Golden fired a final-round 63 to come from six back to beat Annika Sorenstam - of all players - at the Rail Classic. It was Goldens first win and it was as improbable as any on the women's tour all season. Her final-round scoring average coming in was 73, and Sorenstam was so firmly in control through three rounds that no one stopped to consider for a moment any scenario but Annika collecting her seventh win of the year and sewing up the Rolex Player of the Year race.
Mastery is within reach of more than a few in golf. Kate Golden mastered it for a Sunday. Joel Edwards mastered it for a week and hed been at it for 25 years and had never before won a PGA Tour Event, in a runaway no less.
Mike Weir missed the cut at Vancouver last week. That qualifies as a huge disappointment since Weir gets only two chances a year to perform in his home country in PGA Tour events, and also because Vancouver was the site of his PGA breakthrough. It would be nice to see him bounce back this week at The Canadian Open at Royal Montreal. Tigers defending and international French-speaking and lovely Montreal in early September for a national title defense qualifies as a good place to be.
The Tom Lehman debate is interesting. Does Lehman deserve some respect for having taken the U.S. first out of the gates on the happiest Sunday in American golf history when he routed Lee Westwood in the opening singles at Brookline? For being a flag-loving, all-American, God-fearing man perfectly cut out to play in matches like these? Should Curtis have trusted that a player of the stature of Lehman could put his house and game in order in three- or four-weeks' time? Rhetorical questions. Its possible but unlikely that Captain Curtis opted for the bland but effective Verplank and in the process removed a major agent of European agitation in Lehman. Captain Sam Torrance, in the aftermath of the 17th hole controversy at Brookline, seethed at the time and said of Lehman, And he calls himself a man of God. Lehman is not widely liked by the Euros, who see him as perhaps a phony. Get past the Jimmy Stewart modesty and Lehman couldnt give a hoot what they think of him. Lehmans a streetfighter. But whats interesting here is that Curtis in his day was thought to be a streetfighter, a veteran guy you wanted in the foxhole, you couldnt be without. Turned out that Curtis - at least in 1995 when HE was the captains choice of Lanny Wadkins - was the wrong guy. There will be some added pressure on Verplank to deliver on Curtis belief in him. But Ill bet therell come a time when we say, itd be nice to have Tom Lehman right about now.
Olazabal wont be there either, and thats a gaping absence just in terms of what Ollies done for the Euro Ryder Cuppers through the years. He was always a dynamite foursomes and four-ball partner, particularly with Seve. Beginning in 87 at Jacks House - Muirfield in Ohio - the two teamed very successfully. Ollie was 21 back in 87. And though hes weathered, battered by the years, it would have been nice if he had the chance to redeem the collapse against Justin Leonard in 99. But it wont happen. The Euros need to sort out their selection process, find a way to get the best 12. With due respect, Pierre Fulke doesnt belong. Jose does.
I played golf last week with a bunch of friends and brothers, one of whom showed up in a Shingo hat. Naturally, we called him Shingo for the next three days. Shingo became an essence. A mantra. Shingo smiles. Shingo bounces. Shingo enjoys. Shingo plays. Katayama in Atlanta gave us a new golfing fundamental called Shingoism. Next time youre tight on the course, think Shingo. Also, henceforth any play involving smarts and course management is to be known as Tomsmanship. An example would be, He displayed excellent Tomsmanship layin up to the right here, Jimmy!