Golf: Els eases through as Daly flops

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The Independent Online
AS Ernie Els made progress to victory with the utmost serenity at the Bay Hill Invitational, the tempest that is John Daly once more exploded. Daly, golf's "Wild Thing", took an 18 - yes, eighteen - at the par-five sixth hole, a score that was 13 over par and believed to be one of the worst ever on the US tour.

Daly, whose recent consistency has seen him not finish worse than 18th in his last five tournaments, was two under with four to play at the time. He responded by having a birdie-two at the next and ended with an 85 to be 13 over for the tournament.

Bay Hill's sixth hole is a par-five which dog-legs to the left around a lake. Daly's first six attempts to find the fairway ended in the pond. The first was with a driver, after which he advanced 30 yards up the tee and attempted to make a carry of 270 yards with a three-wood. It was his sixth attempt with the three-wood, and 13th shot, which made the carry.

"The more I tried to aim right, the more I duck hooked the ball," Daly said. The former Open and USPGA champion was still buried in the hazard when he found his ball, had to hack on to the fairway, then hit a six- iron which rebounded off rocks into a bunker. Recovering on to the green, he took two putts to hole out.

Daly, who has not taken a drink for almost a year after destroying a hotel room in a drunken rage during the 1997 US Players Championship, had already recorded a 10 at the hole two years ago and once had a 13 at the sixth hole at English Turn in New Orleans.

"Something I have been working on is patience and I lost it after 32 holes today," he said. "I had the courage to go for the carry, but not the wisdom to bail out. I won't lose any confidence over it. I've just got to practise with that three-wood. It's just progress before perfection."

Els, his usual laid-back self disguising the fact that he was highly motivated for the day's 36-hole showdown between three of last year's major champions, shot a 65 in the morning and 73 in the afternoon on his way to a four shot win over Jeff Maggert and Bob Estes.

Davis Love and Tiger Woods, who shared the lead after two rounds, witnessed the South African US Open champion at his supreme best in the morning. Els inflicted an eight-shot swing on Woods, just as the Masters champion had done to Els as he beat him in a play-off for the Johnnie Walker Classic in January.

Both the fact and the manner of the defeat rankled with Els and he never looked back after hitting his first approach shot of the day, with a seven- iron, to two feet. While Love had fallen out of contention with an early double bogey, during which a spectator berated him for choking at the Ryder Cup, Woods bogeyed two of his last three holes of the morning round and, after only 15 minutes for lunch, the first three in the afternoon.

It was a surprising collapse from Woods, who was six over for the day as he was swept away by Els. "It was a major grouping. Tiger and Davis are the best in the world right now and I was ready to roll this morning," Els said. "This is the future. I know these guys are going to come back at me."

Bernhard Langer was the leading European in joint fourth place at nine under, while Colin Montgomerie closed with a 69 to be two further back after three-putting the last. A solid 69 in the morning got Lee Westwood on to the leaderboard with a round to go, but he suffered a triple bogey and a double in his afternoon 76. "I got frustrated with my putting and took on shots I shouldn't have done, Westwood said.

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