Daly bashes ball, keeps it straight and enjoys debut

By Mercer BaggsMay 7, 2016, 12:07 am

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Uh, oh. Here we go.

As soon as John Daly hit his approach shot into the water on the par-4 seventh hole Friday at the Insperity Invitational, that was the first thought.

Daly, making his much anticipated debut on the PGA Tour Champions, had been piddling along for his first six holes. He was hitting fairways, finding greens, but nothing was dropping. Until his second at No. 7 dropped into the drink.

The ball cleared land so Daly was able to get a drop behind the green. He chipped up to 3 feet and made the bogey putt. That’s when Daly’s round really began.

The day officially started at 11:25 a.m., local time. Daly arrived on site one hour and five minutes before his tee time. He finally made it to the range at 11:55, signing hats and flags and bobblehead dolls (of his likeness – a giveaway on Day 1 of the event) en route. Four minutes later – and 31 minutes until show time – he finally hit his first practice ball.

Daly took six one-handed swings with his wedge to start, only five with his driver near the close, and 38 total. After 36 putts on the practice green, it was finally go time. Almost.

Daly posed for photos with the Insperity staff – all clad in Loudmouth pants and shorts – and with the members of his threesome, Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen.

Zoeller showed up in green pants, large Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka logos adorning both thighs. He then presented Daly with a bottle as a form of payment for a bet he made years ago with Daly that he would never reach 50 years of age.

Daly, for the record, had on a light blue shirt and red pants that looked like they were covered in amoebas. He was pretty tame compared to others in the gallery, many of which were wearing their loudest Loudmouth apparel.

After the festivities settled, Daly hit his first official shot as a senior at 12:35 p.m. – five minutes after the scheduled start, but, as they would soon find out, there was no rush. The crowd was seven deep and few remained for the following group.

Daly used driver on the par-5 first, something he would do only five times on Friday. Daly had previously stated that his game plan was to primarily use 1-iron off the tee, and he abided.

Speaking of abiding, The Dude was in attendance. Or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of “The Big Lebowski” protagonist. A guy walking around in a purple robe, cargo shorts, sandals, long hair and a goatee asked Daly for a pack of cigarettes at the practice green. Daly didn’t abide this time, but he joked with the guy.

The crowd, on the whole, was fairly tame, never raucous. Even with a couple of hundred fans in tow, there weren’t any disruptions or over-the-top outbursts. A guy offered an attractive woman $100 if she’d yell, “Take your shirt off!” after Daly teed off on the 11th hole. She gave it some thought, but kept silent.

The crowd, you could tell, was waiting for something to happen, a reason to get a little nuts. But there wasn’t much going on early. Daly made par after par, displaying steady play for someone with only four competitive rounds under his belt this year.

And then came the seventh.

“It was a 178-yard 8-iron, and I had the 7 (iron) out and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just hit the 8, see if I can get it right up there in the chute,’ and I just flushed it right over the flag and it ended up going about 191 (yards) into the water. But I think that’s just from being pumped up,” Daly said.

Maybe it was because he was playing with Fuzzy and Jake. Maybe it was because he got up and down for bogey. Maybe he knew the water ball was a bad break, not poor play.

Whatever the reason, Daly remained calm, joking with his guys on the next tee box. There was a lot of that, because there was a lot of downtime. The group routinely had 10-minute spans between holing out on the green and hitting tee shots on the next hole.

As Jacobsen said during the round, “I’m playing with two of the fastest players out here.”

He’s no slouch, himself. On the par-4 17th, for example, the green cleared and Daly hit first. Eight seconds later, Zoeller hit. Ten seconds later, Jacobsen hit. It was like that all day. The round took four hours and 23 minutes, but would have been cut in half had it just been the three of them out there.

There was a very casual feel to the round. There was the camaraderie; lots of fan interaction, particularly during the walks to the tee boxes and the subsequent waits; Daly was drinking Diet Coke from his Dallas Cowboys tumbler and placing it a foot from his ball when he’d hit; Fuzzy was riding around in a cart.

While Zoeller rode, Jacobsen walked with Daly. “God bless Jake for walking,” Daly said. “He’s got that bad hip. But he said, ‘I just wanted to walk with you today.’”

Jacobsen could have used a ride from Zoeller to get from his ball to Daly’s, when the driver came out. Daly destroyed a drive on the par-5 13th and had to be 90 yards in front of the others. He pounded another one on the par-5 15th and was at least 50 yards clear.

Daly averaged 317.5 yards off the tee, which led the field on Day 1. Jacobsen averaged 246.5 yards, Zoeller 242.5 yards. Surprisingly, Daly only made only one birdie on the four par 5s.

The nerves were present for Daly, and he said he never managed to fully shake them. But he outwardly appeared comfortable and, when that first birdie putt fell on the par-3 eighth, confidence came with it.

He lashed a beautiful 1-iron off the ninth tee and made his second consecutive birdie. He continued to hit fairways and greens, 13 of the former and 16 of the latter, but couldn’t covert several birdie opportunities inside of 15 feet. He managed to make a couple, as well as a bogey at the par-3 14th, and finished with a 2-under 70.

“Hopefully, I just feed off some of the good things I was doing and, you know, just thinking about some of the things that weren’t so good,” Daly said. “My three-quarter shot wasn’t very sharp today, but other than that, it was really solid.

“I mean, it’s something I really didn’t expect.”

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 9:20 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.

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How The Open cut line is determined

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:57 am

Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.

The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.

• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.

• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.

The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.