Golf: Out-of-form Daly unlikely to play the Open

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The Independent Online
JOHN DALY yesterday cut short his European sojourn to go home to Memphis and is unlikely to return for the Open Championship at Carnoustie next week, writes Andy Farrell.

Daly, who appeared on the publicity posters for the Murphy's Irish Open alongside the slogan "One good round deserves another", finished last but one at Druids Glen after a final round of 74. The "Wild Thing" was in the first pairing of the day with Scotland's Stephen Gallacher and completed the round in two-and-a-quarter hours.

But it was after his 81 on Saturday that Daly decided to withdraw from the Standard Life Invitational at Loch Lomond, which starts on Wednesday. The event has also lost Ernie Els, who has decided to spend more time with his wife and baby.

Daly hopes to spend time with his daughters, Shynah and Sierra, this week before deciding on Friday or Saturday whether to come back for the Open. Since winning on the extra wide fairways of St Andrews in 1995, Daly did not play in the 1997 Open and missed the cut last year at Royal Birkdale.

"I'm pretty sure I'm out of the Open," Daly said. "I'm not 100 per cent sure but I'll see how I feel this week. I don't want to jump the gun too quickly so I haven't told the R&A yet. It's no problem to jump on a plane and it's only a 10-hour ride, so it's no worse than driving for 24 hours."

Daly drove all night to take up his place as ninth alternate and then win the USPGA Championship in 1991. Propelled to stardom, the 33-year- old American has always found it difficult to find consistency in his big-hitting game. Yesterday he drove 330 yards into a pond at the 15th and hit a drive of 380 yards at the 16th but could do no better than a par-five.

A particularly frustrating period of missed cuts and withdrawals culminated in Daly shooting a last-round 83 at the US Open and intemperately criticising the US Golf Association, remarks he later apologised for. Having not taken alcohol for over two years, Daly said he would take out his frustrations by seeking a McDonald's and filling up on cheeseburgers and diet coke.

"I swung the club very well this week but it's been that way all year. I'm just can't seem to score. I am so frustrated with my game and it is not fair to force somebody who is playing good golf to miss a spot in the Open.

"I'm very tired and I have no confidence right now. I hear Loch Lomond is a great course but I don't think I'm going to find my confidence there. And from what I understand, Carnoustie is not the place to go when you are not playing well."

Daly has bigger problems than playing golf and "faces demons every day". His gambling debts mean he has to keep earning, but being burdened with the star billing at a high-profile tournament was perhaps insensitive of both his managers and the event's organisers.

What is certain is that he will not be missing the Open next year when it returns to the scene of his past triumph. "I'll definitely be at St Andrews," Daly said.