Golf: Daly relishes the open space to grip it and rip it

Recovering alcoholic, gambler and chocoholic looks forward to his `Ryder Cup'
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The Independent Online
THEY ARE an eclectic threesome, certainly - famed respectively as a young prodigy, a late-blooming journeyman and a recovering alcoholic - but in Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara and John Daly the Americans are perhaps the strongest team ever to appear in the Alfred Dunhill Cup. One is the world No 1, the next is the Open and Masters champion and the third won the Open last time it was held at St Andrews in 1995.

Daly is ranked 122 places below his captain, O'Meara, the world No 4, but the Old Course is perfectly suited to the Wild Thing's grip it and rip it style.

"It is good to be back here," Daly said. "There is something so special about St Andrews, not just because I won the Open here but because of the way the golf course is. I can hit my driver pretty much on all the holes and that makes it fun for me."

Since Daly was last here three years ago, he has beaten a addiction to chocolate, gone through a spell of wild gambling - losing over $2m (pounds 1.2m) in one weekend - fallen off the wagon in spectacular style, but has now not had a drink for 18 months. He suffered a violent attack of the shakes in a tournament in Vancouver in August and has been resting for the last month.

When he played in this event for the first time in 1993, Daly won four of his five matches as America landed the second of their three titles here. "This is my Ryder Cup," Daly said. "I am never going to be on the American Ryder Cup team so this means a lot to me."

Daly's problem with the Ryder Cup is that he does not think he will ever play consistently enough to earn the required points, while he is dubious any captain will pick him as a wild card. "I play at the flags. I'm not a guy who lays up too much. When I'm on, it's good; when I'm not, it's awful."

Just as the course sets up well for Daly, so it does for Woods, who made the cut at the 1995 Open as an amateur. The 22-year-old, making his debut for the US team, has not seen the course in its softer, autumnal mode but is sure to want to put down a marker for when the Open returns to St Andrews in 2000. "Links golf is my favourite style," Woods said. "You have to be so creative around the greens, play bump and runs or fly it in and spin it. You don't find that at home."

While Woods has become a more consistent player under the steadying influence of his friend and mentor, the 41-year-old O'Meara has acquired something of the young phenomenon's killer instinct. Suddenly his CV has been transformed by victories at Augusta and Royal Birkdale.

O'Meara, who was on the winning team two years ago, said: "I think America is very interested in the Dunhill Cup. The players on tour and the public will be watching it closely on the Golf Channel."

While he is at home, O'Meara watches a lot of the early-morning action from Europe. "What you don't realise is that Mark gets up at four o'clock every day," interrupted Woods. Cue Daly: "Four o'clock is when I used to get in."

SEEDINGS AND FIRST-DAY PAIRINGS

Draw for the Alfred Dunhill Cup, St Andrews, 8-11 October (seeded positions in brackets):

Group One: (1) United States, (8) Sweden, England, Japan.

Group Two: (4) Spain, (5) Scotland, Ireland, China.

Group Three: (3) Zimbabwe, (6) South Africa, Germany, France.

Group Four: (2) Australia, (7) New Zealand, Argentina, South Korea.

Winners of each group advance to semi-finals on Sunday: Group One v Group Two, Group Three v Group Four.

TODAY'S MATCHES

Group One: Sweden v Japan

9.30: Patrik Sjoland v Hiroyuki Fujita

9.40: Mathias Gronberg v Nobuo Serizawa

9.50: Per Ulrik Johansson v Katsuma Miyamoto

United States v England

10.0: John Daly v Lee Westwood

10.10: Tiger Woods v David Carter

10.20: Mark O'Meara v Peter Baker

Group Two: Scotland v China

10.30: Gary Orr v Wu Xiang-bing

10.40: Andrew Coltart v Cheng Jun

10.50: Colin Montgomerie v Zhang Lian-wei

Spain v Ireland

11.0: Santiago Luna v Darren Clarke

11.10: Miguel Angel Jimenez v Paul McGinley

11.20: Jose Maria Olazabal v Padraig Harrington

Group 4: New Zealand v South Korea

11.30: Michael Long v Shin Yong-jin

11.40: Frank Nobilo v Kang Wook-soon

11.50: Greg Turner v Kim Jong-duck

Australia v Argentina

12.0: Stuart Appleby v Jose Coceres

12.10: Craig Parry v Angel Cabrera

12.20: Steve Elkington v Eduardo Romero

Group 3: South Africa v France

12.30: Retief Goosen v Olivier Edmond

12.40: David Frost v Thomas Levet

12.50: Ernie Els v Jean Van de Velde

Zimbabwe v Germany

1.0: Tony Johnstone v Sven Struver

1.10: Nick Price v Thomas Gogele

1.20: Mark McNulty v Alex Cejka

Betting odds: 9-4 United States, 9-2 South Africa, 8-1 Australia, 9-1 Ireland, Sweden, 10-1 Scotland, 12-1 Argentina, 14-1 Spain, Zimbabwe, 16-1 Germany, New Zealand, 20-1 England, 66-1 France, 100-1 Japan, 300- 1 Korea, 500-1 China.

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