Daly delights in the excesses of tinsel town

GOLF
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The old silver claret jug is being paraded around Hollywood as if it were an Oscar. John Daly has hit tinsel town for the 77th US PGA Championship and the worst fears of the Royal and Ancient for their latest standard bearer are being realised under the glare of the spotlight.

It is not just that Daly has the appearance of a Buddhist monk after shaving his head. His first act after arriving in California was to drive, not at the Riviera Country Club, where the championship starts this morning, but at Santa Monica airport. His first public appearance in America since winning the Open at St Andrews had Daly driving a ball down a runway about 550 yards on behalf of Wilson, the company that makes his drivers.

The slogan for his new driver is: "Today the British Open, tomorrow the world." After his victory in Scotland his minders said that Daly, the former Wild Thing, had the potential to become the biggest earner in the history of the game, and they have wasted no time in attempting to prove the theory. Daly rounded off a fun-filled day with the obligatory appearance on a chat show.

There was not much chat. Daly, wearing a leopard skin jacket, shaved the head of some poor volunteer and then used his new driver to hit doughnuts into the audience.

Perhaps Daly feels at home in the dream factory but this is the place that for some represents a nightmare. O J Simpson, a member at the Riviera, played golf with his buddies here on the morning of 12 June last year and later that day his former wife and her friend were murdered.

The US PGA, the fourth major on the calendar, provided Daly with his breakthrough four years ago when, as a self-confessed alcoholic, he put Crooked Stick in Indiana to the sword. Despite that he did not make the United States Ryder Cup team that year and, despite his triumph at St Andrews last month, he may not make it for next month's match against Europe in Rochester, New York.

The top 10 earners qualify and the remaining two are chosen by the captain. Daly, who is 16th in the table, could get in on merit with a strong finish this weekend, but the feeling is that the Open champion will not be picked. Lanny Wadkins, the US captain, does not think the Oak Hill club in Rochester is Daly's kind of course.

"It could happen," Daly said of his Ryder Cup chances. "There has been a lot of weird stuff happening in my life. Maybe there will be some more." If he does make the team, he said he will encourage his colleagues to adopt the skinhead appearance for the sake of team unity. Wadkins's apprehension is understandable.

Meanwhile, Nick Faldo reiterated here yesterday that Europe had shot itself in the foot by agreeing to have only two selections. "It's not enough," Faldo said. "They knew I was going to play in America so in effect we're down to one selection. We've got ourselves in a bit of a pickle."

Faldo, like Daly, is 16th in the Cup standings but, unlike Daly, Faldo will be selected. That will leave Bernard Gallacher, Europe's captain, with hardly any room to manoeuvre. Faldo said that he and Seve Ballesteros had voiced their concern to Ken Schofield, executive director of the European Tour. "We asked him to change the rules and he said no," Faldo said.

With Ben Crenshaw winning the Masters, Corey Pavin the US Open and Daly the Open, the Americans are favourites to complete a sweep of the majors. Pavin is strongly fancied on the grounds that he has won the Los Angeles Open at the Riviera om the last two occasions.

Others in with a big shout are Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Faldo himself, who first played the Riviera in 1981 and won enough money to secure his US Tour card. Faldo has not been in contention in the majors this year but after yet more tinkering with his coach, David Leadbetter, he said he is more optimistic about this week.

"It is a very good, straightforward simple design," Faldo said of the course. And, naturally, he has been working hard. For some strange reason he estimated that since taking up golf he has played seven million shots. A lot of them are practice putts in hotel rooms, especially American hotel rooms. "Fifty seven TV channels," Faldo lamented, "and there's nothing on."

There's always the O J trial.

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