Just a Suspicion But Daly May Be Maturing
So John Daly has another lightning bolt for us.
It was almost exactly 10 years ago, at the 1991 PGA Championship, that he was introduced with all the impact of a meteor striking the earth in New York City. He won. And he won last weekend at the BMW International Open in Munich, Germany. Along the way in this pro golf odyssey, he has won two other times, though the last one was way back in 1995. That one caused a few heads to swivel, too, being that it was the British Open.
Is John back? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe he will win again before the year is over. But maybe it will again take six years, as it did this time around.
First, let it be known that this was no fluke ' Daly was up against the best of Europe. The course was rather short, but John utterly decimated it, equaling the European Tour record of 27-under-par. He was playing most of the European Ryder Cup team, and he won the tournament with a last-hole birdie to beat Irishman Padraig Harrington, an excellent player who now has the rather dubious distinction of shooting the lowest score ever to lose in Europe ' 26-under.
Finally, all the hard work I have put in is starting to pay off, said Daly. This has been my most consistent year and Ive been preparing myself like I used to.
Look at the record, though. Daly finished in a tie for 17th at his last tournament, the Reno-Tahoe Open. That is a second-tier tournament, and he missed the cut in his three previous efforts ' the British Open, the International and the PGA Championship. He has missed the cut eight times in 21 tournaments in 2001.
But ' there is reason to pay attention to John. He tied for ninth at Phoenix and tied for fifth at Memphis. He finished third at Loch Lomond in Scotland in July. He is 81st on the money list, and only once in the past six years has he finished as high as 108th.
Daly is still far too aggressive ' he ranks 190th in driving accuracy, 87th in greens in regulation. But he is a respectable 51st in putting, even if his 152nd position out of the bunkers is an embarrassment.
His personal life has been another embarrassment. He has been in and out of rehab centers, trashed hotel rooms, destroyed a room in his house, played hockey with his ball on the green at a U.S. Open, been put on probation by the Tour, dropped by Reebok, Wilson and Callaway from their endorsement staffs, and many, many more. Still just 31 years of age, he brought with him to Germany his fourth wife. He married Sherrie Miller, a nurse, just seven weeks after their introduction. He currently pays $40,000 a month in alimony payments. Luckily for him, he won $680,000 in a Las Vegas casino the day before the ceremony July 29.
But Daly was brilliant on the course in Munich. He did everything he is known for when he won his two majors, said Harrington.
Its not that he hits the ball so long ' there are lots of people who do that. But its how straight he hits it. He drove the ball superbly and he has a great touch with his putting. He played very confident golf.
Daly says he is a changed man. Of course, hes said that before. And before. And before. But now that hes in his 30s, maybe he really has.
I dont give up on myself or get down on myself like I used to, he said after the victory. Well, doggone it, maybe he doesnt. I played 72 holes this week with only two missed shots. To be able to say that with my aggressive game is an awesome feeling.
Does he really mean it? Well, believe it or not, he hasnt had a drink it a year. Hes not going to AA now, but he says the urge to have a cold one just doesnt hit me anymore.
Then, to prove it, he passed around the jereboam of champagne that he had just won to members of the media.
I had some when I was 14 at my sisters wedding, and I cant stand the (stuff), he said. I never drank it after I woke up with the worst headache of my life.
Is John Daly finally growing up? Maybe. Maybe Wild Thing is about to become Mature Thing.
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”
Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.
Hoylake in 2006.
That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.
So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?
“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”
With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?
“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”
How will players game-plan for Carnoustie?
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Thomas took a familiar slash with his driver on the 18th tee on Monday at Carnoustie and watched anxiously as his golf ball bounced and bounded down the fairway.
Unlike the two previous editions of The Open, at what is widely considered the rota’s most demanding test, a particularly warm and dry summer has left Carnoustie a parched shade of yellow and players like Thomas searching for answers.
Under the best circumstances, Carnoustie is every bit the unforgiving participant. But this week promises to be something altogether different, with players already dumbfounded by how far the ball is chasing down fairways and over greens.
Brown is beautiful here at Royal Dark & Dusty.
But then it’s also proving to be something of a unique test.
Where most practice rounds at The Open are spent trying to figure out what lines are best off tees, this is more a study of lesser evils.
Tee shots, like at the par-4 17th hole, ask multiple questions with few answers. On his first attempt, Thomas hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 17. It cleared the Barry Burn and bounded down the middle of the fairway. Perfect, right? Not this year at Carnoustie, as Thomas’ tee shot kept rolling until it reached the same burn, which twists and turns through both the 17th and 18th fairways, at a farther intersection.
“A hole like 17 in this wind, the trick is getting a club that will carry [the burn],” said Thomas, who played 18 holes on Monday with Tiger Woods. “If that hole gets downwind you can have a hard time carrying the burn and keeping it short of the other burn. It’s pretty bizarre.”
The sixth hole can offer a similar dilemma, with players needing to carry their tee shots 275 yards to avoid a pair of pot bunkers down the right side of the fairway. Yet just 26 yards past those pitfalls looms a second set of bunkers. Even for the game’s best, trying to weave a fairway wood or long-iron into a 26-yard window can be challenging.
“Six is a really hard hole, it really just depends on how you want to play it. If you want to take everything on and have a chance of hitting an iron into a par 5, or just kind of lay back and play it as a three-shot hole,” Thomas shrugged.
It’s difficult to quantify precisely how short the 7,400-yard layout is playing. It’s not so far players are flying the ball in the air, particularly with relatively little wind in the forecast the rest of the week, so much as it is a question of how a particular shot will run out after it’s made contact with the firm turf.
As the field began to get their first taste of the bouncy fun, one of the earliest indications something was askew came on Sunday when Padraig Harrington, who won The Open the last time it was played at Carnoustie in 2007, announced to the social world that he’d hit into the burn on the 18th hole.
“This time it was the one at the green, 457 yards away,” the Irishman tweeted. “The fairways are a tad fast.”
Most players have already resigned themselves to a steady diet of mid-irons off tees this week in an attempt to at least partially control the amount of run-out each shot will have.
Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, hadn’t played a practice round prior to his media session, but could tell what’s in store just from his abbreviated range session on Monday. “Extremely baked out,” he said.
The conditions have already led Spieth and his caddie, Micheal Greller, to conjure up a tentative game plan.
“You might wear out your 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you’re used to,” Greller told him.
But even that might not be the answer, as Tommy Fleetwood discovered on Sunday during a practice round. Fleetwood has a unique connection with Carnoustie having shot the course record (63) during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.
The Englishman doesn’t expect his record to be in danger this week.
In fact, he explained the dramatically different conditions were evident on the third hole on Sunday.
“There’s holes that have been nothing tee shots, like the third. If you play that in the middle of September or October [when the Dunhill is played] and it’s green and soft, you could just hit a mid-iron down the fairway and knock it on with a wedge,” Fleetwood said. “Yesterday it was playing so firm, the fairways really undulate and you have bunkers on either side, it’s actually all of a sudden a tough tee shot.”
The alternative to the iron game plan off the tee would be to simply hit driver, an option at least one long-hitter is considering this week if his practice round was any indication.
On Sunday, Jon Rahm played aggressively off each tee, taking the ubiquitous fairway bunkers out of play but at the same time tempting fate with each fairway ringed by fescue rough, which is relatively tame given the dry conditions. But even that option has consequences.
“It’s kind of strange where there’s not really a number that you know you’re going to be short,” said Fleetwood, who played his Sunday practice round with Rahm. “[Rahm] hit a drive on 15 that was like 400 yards. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff.”
Whatever tactic players choose, this Open Championship promises to be a much different test than what players have become accustomed to at Carnoustie.