Golf / The Open: Daly shows why he is still a hot potato: Martin Johnson heads for the fairways and the players' final practice at Turnberry

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'HE'S a lot more accurate than he's given credit for,' was Barry Lane's verdict on John Daly yesterday, although this is not a sentiment necessarily shared by the Turnberry catering staff. Daly's tee shot at the 18th comfortably carried the fairway walkway, but turned sharp left over the spectator railings and into a baked potato stall.

The American is also a potential hazard to shipping in that the lighthouse to the left of Turnberry's signature hole, the ninth, lies 250 yards to the left of the tee and is well within his range. Several players have had a pop at it during practice, aiming further left than a chronic Sunday morning slicer, but Daly declined the spectators' invitation yesterday. 'You guys trying to get me in more trouble, or what?' he grinned.

Daly raised a few eyebrows among USPGA officials recently when he hinted that one or two golfers might be on the sort of coke liable to render you higher than a Tom Kite, but his new Mr Clean image is otherwise holding up pretty well. Mark Calcavecchia was moaning about paying through the nose for his room at the Turnberry Hotel the other day, although without

Daly's legendary bar bills profits will be well down this year.

The customary Daly gallery was even larger yesterday given that Colin Montgomerie was one of his partners and it was hard not to feel a sorry for the third member of the group, an American by the name of

Michael Springer. Considering that Springer rarely stood over a shot without hearing someone whisper 'psst, who's that other guy', he played pretty well.

If the wind gets up, so the players keep saying it will take 'imagination' to win this Open, in which case David Feherty must be in with a chance. He once conjured up a vivid picture of Montgomerie, in which he described the Scot as having 'a face like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle'. Since then, Monty has been working hard on his image, and his new face is more of a bulldog licking the marrow from a juicy bone. He smiled, signed every autograph book thrust his way, and happily joined in with Daly's cheery crowd banter.

On the 12th tee, a 448-yard par four, Monty took out the driver and said: 'OK, John, let's see you get past this one then.' Daly replied: 'What do you think I'll need? Three-iron?' And then, when Monty spanked one down the middle, said: 'That's why you make a pounds 1m a year.'

'Going a bit short yourself, are you?' inquired Monty, at which point Daly invited him to inspect what remained of his bank balance since his divorce settlement. The American then launched one 40 yards past Monty and turned to the crowd. 'Every time I hit it, I think it's my wife.' However, Monty clearly thinks rather more fondly of Mrs Monty. He caressed a four-iron to five feet and walked off with a birdie three.

Playing a couple of holes

behind were alleged to be the two Japanese, 'Jumbo' Osaki and Hajime Meshiai, although it was hard make a positive identification as they were constantly enveloped in cigarette smoke. There is probably a higher percentage of puffers among golfers than in any other sport and it is just as well that Turnberry is damp this week, otherwise the whole place might go up.

No Japanese golfer has ever finished in the top three in a major, one theory being that there is so much money on their own tour that few of them feel the need to travel. Those who do, however, rarely get homesick as the Japanese have solved the problem of not having enough land to build all the golf courses they want by buying everyone else's. They even own this one and although Calcavecchia does not think much of their prices, if he really wants to lighten his wallet he should try paying a green fee in Tokyo.

Whenever Japanese golfers do travel, they are followed by a small army of their own supporters, clicking away on the inevitable cameras. Long faces are guaranteed over the next four days when cameras, which

appear to be a national addiction, are banned. I once witnessed a Japanese tourist in London snapping ferociously at a parking meter with an out-of- order cloth draped over the top.

Today, the official photographers will be looking for celebrities in the crowd as well as on the course, and Ian Botham is

expected this week to support his chum, Ernie Els. Botham's capacity to make the pre-pledge Daly look like a half of shandy man is a pointer to Els' prospects of back-to-back majors. Unless he can steer clear of Botham after dark, he has got no chance.

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