ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Earlier in the week Phil Mickelson suggested they play the Open Championship on the Old Course every year, not that it would help pull Lefty from his links funk. But it would certainly give John Daly a reason to look forward to July.
St. Andrews never disappoints, but everything else is fair game at golf’s oldest, and quirkiest, championship.
John Daly. They call this hamlet in Fife the “Fairytale Town” and JD’s opening 66 on Thursday certainly qualified as a fairytale start.
For all the missteps the big man has taken in his life Thursday was a collective epiphany, both competitively and personally. The desire may have wavered from time to time, but not the talent. Not the way he blasted his way around the Old Course with abandon and aplomb on Day 1.
But even more impressive was the way Daly handled himself at the microphone when the inevitable questions of a sordid past cropped up.
“I've never ran from my mistakes. I've always kind of been the man that you're supposed to be when you screw up, and I've screwed up an awful lot, not just on Tour but in other aspects of life,” Daly said. “I think it's how you come back and deal with it.”
And after a rough second-round 76, not sure the self-dubbed “Mild Thing” has two more days of Old Course magic in him, but it’s good to see his best days are not behind him.
Europe. Somewhere Corey Pavin is pacing nervously. The Ryder Cup is still over two months away and individual achievements usually mean little at the biennial grudge match, but things are not looking good for the U.S. side.
Four of the last six PGA Tour winners have been leading European Ryder Cup candidates – Justin Rose at the Memorial and AT&T National, Lee Westwood at the St. Jude Classic and Graeme McDowell at Pebble Beach – and a quick glance of the Open Championship leaderboard shows the continent with eight of the top 10 spots.
On Tuesday Westwood fired a playful jab at PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem during a golf writer’s award dinner: “It was lovely to see an American (Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic) win on your Tour,” Westwood smiled.
And Paul Azinger thought he was playing into a four-club wind at Valhalla.
Tweet of the Week: @danjenkinsgd (Golf Digest writer Dan Jenkins) “Mark Calcavecchia stopped at St. Andrews on his way to the Senior British Open next week and he tripped over a 67.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish
Royal & Ancient. For nearly 40 minutes Friday afternoon the wind whipped, the sun shone and a stunned populace waited for play to resume at the Open Championship. Or maybe they were just waiting for someone to announce the 150th anniversary of the game’s oldest member-member had just been punked.
They don’t stop play at the Open Championship, not for rain, and not very often for wind, but just as Tiger Woods was completing his first hole on Friday the delay horn sounded because of winds that were gusting to 41 mph and moving golf balls on the greens.
It was the first wind delay since the 1998 championship at Royal Birkdale and a decision that chaffed some of the day’s early starters, who shouldered through the worst of Thursday’s weather and didn’t have it much better on Friday morning. But mostly it just confused observers accustomed to the rub of the Scottish “summer.”
“Come on let’s play,” Dr. Bob Rotella smiled.
Phil Mickelson. Earlier this week Lefty heaped praise on the Old Course that bordered on the spiritual, leading some to believe that this was finally the year the world No. 2 solved the links enigma. All of which made his 73-71 start particularly disappointing, if not predictable.
The Hall of Fame resume is far from wanting, but Mickelson’s Open record is pedestrian at best. In 14 Open starts he has just a single top-10 finish and his best showing on the Old Course is a tie for 11th in 2000.
Some contend Mickelson’s aerial game on a links course is akin to bringing a spork to a knife fight, but the real reason may be much simpler. For the man who played one tournament with two drivers in his bag and another, at Torrey Pines no less, without any driver, links golf may ask too many quesitons.
Tiger Woods. The world No. 1’s Q&A with an outwardly hostile United Kingdom press aside, he rates a one-stroke penalty for his subtle stab at the Old Course’s greens.
“These greens are just the slowest I've seen in a long time, if ever,” Woods said following his first-round 67.
This is the second consecutive major that has drawn Woods’ ire for a less-than-perfect roll, following last month’s take that Pebble Beach’s greens were “awful.”
Yet had the greens been a foot faster on the Stimpmeter play may never have resumed on Friday and it’s hard to imagine the Old Course’s putting surfaces rolling much faster in 2000 and 2005 when Woods lapped the field. Be it denial or deflection, on this one Woods was OB.
Restless in Reno. “Cut Line” has listened to one too many Tour types complain about diminishing playing opportunities to let this one slide.
This week’s opposite-field event in Reno was hit with a rash of last-minute withdrawals and an obscure qualification category that caught many players off guard. As a result, a field that was supposed to feature 132 participants played “short” with just 126.
We’ve never been a fan of contraction, not in golf or any business model, but when $3.5 million and a weekend in Reno isn’t enough to get you off the couch consider yourself spoiled, or worse entitled.