New phase for Daly, but not everything's changed

By Mercer BaggsMay 5, 2016, 7:20 pm

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – John Daly has been thinking about this week for a while.

“Seniors? No cut? Yeah I could do that,” he says.

“If I live to be 50.”

That was 10 years ago, January 2006. Daly was in Los Angeles to promote a Golf Channel show about his life. He hadn’t yet turned 40 and still had full-time PGA Tour status.

And here he is today, alive and, by his account and visual perception, doing well. A card-carrying member of the PGA Tour Champions.

He’s about the same size now as he was then, still has a full head of blonde hair. The difference is in his face. The lines are a little more prominent, the texture a little more weathered. But, if you knew Daly back then, you wouldn’t mistake him for anyone else now.

It’s 8:18 a.m. local time and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is blaring on practice range speakers. Daly is on the first tee at The Woodlands Country Club, host to the Insperity Invitational, waiting to begin his fourth pro-am in as many days.

He’s adorned in a solid red shirt, with paint-splashed pants. There is some red, yellow, orange, maybe teal in there. He lights a cigarette, poses for some photos, signs some autographs, jokes with his playing partners, tees up his ball and smacks a driver. He jumps in his cart, twists open a Diet Coke and says to himself, “OK.”

This scenario continues hole after hole. Cigarettes, Diet Coke, photos, signatures, backslaps and jokes, some not suitable for print but all amusing to the group. The only interchangeable part is when he swaps out driver for a 1-iron, off the tee.

John Daly during Thursday's Insperity Invitational pro-am

The golf, on the whole, isn’t particularly inspiring (hey, it’s a pro-am), but it is lively. As long as one guy can make 4 for 3, that makes the everyone happy. It happens on the first hole, when one of the amateurs chips in for par. Daly nicknames him Dr. Chipinski and the group runs with it. One guy won’t stop saying, “Dr. Chipinkski.” He just won’t stop.

Daly’s best shot, early in the round, comes on the 158-yard, par-3 third. It’s a very old-school scene. His irons are plastered in lead tape and he uses one of them to stick his tee ball to 6 feet. There is no deliberation over the ball, no practice swing. The green clears, he takes a stance and takes a lash. A cigarette dangles from his lips. The hole, ironically, is sponsored by “Golfers Against Cancer.”

Daly is a great fit for the senior circuit, and vice versa. Four consecutive pro-ams is a bit exhausting, but this won’t be an every week occasion. Daly is trying to play his way into competitive shape and this is how it’s done on the PGA Tour Champions. Pro-ams and sponsors are vital.

“John has done everything we’ve asked,” Bryan Naugle, Insperity Invitational executive director, said. “He’s never said no. Done it graciously. He understands what this is all about.”

The PGA Tour Champions isn’t Daly’s second chance. It’s another chance. It’s another of many opportunities to play golf on a consistent basis and make money doing it. And outward signs are positive.

Life is good, Daly has said repeatedly over the last few days. He’s got his private life in order and that’s a positive for his professional one, he says. He said the same thing 10 years ago. Maybe this time he’s found his sweet spot.

Daly believes he’s better off weighing 250 pounds, rather than 180. It’s a matter of comfort. He’s abused alcohol, but still drinks when it suits him and even has a signature line of sweet tea/lemonade vodka. He admits to losing more than $55 million in gambling but still likes the slots – just at $25 a pull, not $5,000. He smokes two packs a day, and not even a collapsed lung last year could curb that habit. He’s been engaged since December 2014; four failed marriages have not deterred him.

Many view Daly as Everyman. But he is an excessive man.

Managing those excesses has been a lifelong struggle. Others have tried to pave a way to recovery, but Daly believes you can’t change because someone else desires it. “Change is very, very difficult,” he said recently.

You have to deal with your problems in your own manner. That’s the Daly way: His life, his terms, his rationale. He doesn’t want to turn away from his vices, just turn the volume down.

There are regrets, but nothing he dwells on. “If I lived in the past,” he says, “I’d be dead.”

He wishes he could combine his talent in the 1990s with his mindset in the 2000s. But, “all that money was coming in and I didn’t work hard enough at it. ... I didn’t do the right things to prepare myself to win golf tournaments.

“I’m just kind of a grinder now, but I think my mental attitude is 10 times better than it was in the ‘90s.”

John Daly's group during Thursday's Insperity Invitational pro-am

Things can change, if you want them to – to the degree in which you want. It just takes time and effort. For such a visible person, if there is a difference between Daly in his 20s and 30s, compared to his 40s and now 50s, it has occurred outside of public view.

Daly looks, sounds and behaves the way most of us remember. And, on this day, in this season of life, those aren’t all bad things.

He’s got a belly he can use as an armrest and the smoker’s cough is a bit concerning. There is always the lure of temptation. But this is John Daly’s life and, despite even his own doubts, he’s made it to 50.

By the time Daly reached the par-3 16th on Thursday, his crowd had grown to 30-plus. That hole has a plaque below the tee sign that reads: “John Daly lashed a 191-yard 6-iron shot into the cup for a hole-in-one during the final round of the 1994 Shell Houston Open. Daly used the momentum he gained here to win the following week in Atlanta.”

Twenty-two years later, Daly had to settle for a 2. His group finished at 16 under, five shots behind the winning team.

“We had a blast,” pro-am partner Joe Gillen, CEO of Pinnacle Financial Strategies, said. “He’s a first-class individual.”

After his round, Daly posed for more photos, signed more autographs, shook more hands and then, finally, broke from the crowd and settled into the sanctuary of the Loudmouth booth overlooking the 18th green.

There, he posed for a few more photos.

“It’s been a long week and I’m a little tired,” Daly said. “But I’m excited to get it going.

“Been counting down (for this week) like a 5-year-old waiting for Christmas to come.”

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.