Even in decline Daly a big draw

By Associated PressAugust 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' Kids reached out to touch him. Grown men shouted his name. Women smiled and begged for an autograph.
 
Its been 17 years since John Daly, his moon face beaming below a blond mullet, strode up the 18th fairway at Crooked Stick, a shocking winner of the PGA Championship. And its 13 years since the burly golfer pulled off another stunner, winning the British Open at, of all places, St. Andrews.
 
But as it was evident Monday morning near the practice range at Oakland Hills, site of this weeks 90th PGA Championship, the years melt away when a gallery spies Daly.
 
Despite the tawdry headlines about his failed relationships, erratic behavior, indifferent practice regimens and personal excesses, Daly remains a much-loved favorite of the fans in a sport where proper dress, proper manners and proper decorum are usually the rule.
 
Yeah, it does, he said Monday when asked if returning to a major championship reminded him of his breakthrough win in 1991 at Crooked Stick. Its always nice.
 
While players who have won multiple tournaments walked past the pack of fans without anyone noticing, Daly is still a big draw, even if hes gotten to be known for what he does off the course more than for what he does on it.
 
Daly quarreled with swing coach Butch Harmon, who in a neat turnaround fired Daly after saying the Arkansas native was more committed to longnecks and late nights than he was to practicing.
 
Daly got a lot of exposure, in every sense of the word, when hundreds of thousands checked out a video on the Internet that showed him playing a golf course while wearing only a cap and blue jeans ' no shirt, no socks, no shoes. In another video, from a Flint, Mich., pro-am while with rocker Kid Rock, he hit a ball off the top of a full beer can, splashing suds all over the tee box.
 
During a 2 1/2 -hour rain delay at the PODS Championship in March, Daly escaped the weather by staying at a Hooters corporate tent. When he returned to the course, he dumped his caddie and replaced him with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden. Daly, who later said that his regular caddie was hurt, shot a 77 and followed that with an 80 to miss the cut.
 
With his weekend free, Daly returned to the course and hung around at the Hooters Owls Nest lounge at the course, drinking beer and signing autographs. He said his sponsors requested he be there.
 
That was the last straw for Harmon, who dumped Daly not long after.
 
My whole goal for him was hes got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life, Harmon said at the time. And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.
 
A week after the PODS, Daly missed his pro-am tee time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, triggering a Tour rule that says players who dont play in pro-ams are ineligible to play in the regular tournament. Daly said a woman in the tournament office gave him the wrong tee time.
 
Daly has not had his full PGA TOUR card for two years, relying mostly on sponsor exemptions to get into tournaments.
 
Now 42, he is searching hard for anything that resembles a golf game. He comes to Oakland Hills for the PGA Championship as the No. 664-ranked golfer in the world, right behind two guys named Steve Scahill and Mike Grob.
 
Granted, he was the ninth and final alternate at the PGA Championship and arrived just in time to play in the opening round of that magical 1991 tournament. But even Daly concedes that his chances of duplicating that victory this week dont look great.
 
How you hitting em? he is asked.
 
Horribly, he said with a laugh.
 
How are you feeling these days?
 
Im getting there, he said while scribbling his signature on golf flags, shirts, hats, programs, pictures and magazine covers. I had rib surgery two months ago. I just had a cyst in my right hand and they finally got that out. Now Ive got tendinitis in my left elbow.
 
A youngster probably not yet born when Daly outplayed Costantino Rocca at the Old Course listened to his litany of woes and shouted, Youre my favorite player, Mr. Daly. I love you.
 
Daly just flashed a smile while he moved along the metal railing, signing everything that was thrust in front of him.
 
He has not been to Oakland Hills since the U.S. Open in 1996, which featured one of the more peculiar groupings. Daly played the first two rounds with 20-year-old amateur Tiger Woods ' they represented the two longest hitters in golf ' and defending champion Corey Pavin, one of the shortest hitters. Daly tied for 27th that year.
 
He has not won since the 2004 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines, and some lobbied for him to be a captains pick for the Ryder Cup held at Oakland Hills. He didnt make it, and remains the only two-time major champion to have never played in a Ryder Cup.
 
Not that it would have mattered ' Europe won, 18 1/2 -9 1/2. Eight players from that team return to Oakland Hills with fond memories, boosting the odds that a European will end the 78-year drought at the PGA Championship.
 
Since Daly last played a competitive round at Oakland Hills at the 96 Open won by Steve Jones, some new bunkers have been added, some trees taken out and a few minor tweaks made elsewhere to what has always been a classic design.
 
As Daly headed out for a practice round, he said the course had fit his game back in 1996. He wasnt sure if it would again.
 
Maybe its just that the course hasnt changed nearly as much as Daly and his game have.
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”