SOMETIMES IT is easy to forget John Daly is a major champion for golfing reasons as well as for headline-grabbing. Outside his remarkable triumphs at the 1991 USPGA and the Open in '95, Daly has rarely shown off his talent for the game in a good light. One occasion was when he finished second in the Irish Open at Mount Juliet five years ago. Another was the first round of the recent US Open.
After 18 holes at Pinehurst, Daly was one off the lead and tied with the eventual champion Payne Stewart. Three rounds later Daly trailed Stewart by 30 strokes. His final round 83 included an 11 at the eighth, when he hit a moving ball in order to get up the bank behind the green. The penalty was two shots but could have been disqualification for intentionally breaking the rules.
Afterwards Daly said he would not play in the US Open again and that the US Golf Association was trying to embarrass the players. Last week, however, he wrote a letter of apology to the USGA's executive director.
"It's a great major but it probably doesn't suit my game," Daly said. "Pebble Beach is a good course for me and as a kid I always wanted to win all four majors. You can't win them if you are not in them. We should be able to voice our opinions but I did it at the wrong time and what I said about the USGA was wrong. The course was just so hard and some of the pin placements were pretty unfair but you know that going into it."
Part of Daly's appeal rests with the fact that he is capable of such brilliant shots and big hitting but also falls into the same mental traps as the worst hacker. "I don't think I've ever doubted my golf," Daly said. "It's a mind thing. When I'm confident, my mental attitude is good. When I'm not, it's awful.
"I just have to buckle up and play good golf. I'm working hard with (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella on stopping my mind wandering. I can't hide my emotions. I've talked to David Duval and I don't know how he does it, he's phenomenal."
On Monday and Tuesday Daly played with Duval, Fred Couples and winner Mike Weir in the Canadian Skins game, earning $55,000 (pounds 34,161). "I would sooner play a skins game every day," he said. "You don't have to keep score, you can have a 12 and as long as two guys tie you're still in the game."
So it was a bleary-eyed Daly who flew in overnight to arrive at Druids Glen for the pro-am of the Murphy's Irish Open. It is not often that a player ranked 193rd in the world gets the star billing but the publicity fee will presumably more than cover the $40,000 the `Wild Thing' needs a month to pay off gambling debts.
However, it is ironic, and possibly distasteful, that a recovering alcoholic should front the poster campaign for a tournament sponsored by an Irish stout company with the legend: "One good round deserves another".
Then there is the Druids Glen course, which has been set up much like a US Open venue with thick rough, which is why Colin Montgomerie finds himself going for his third title in four years. Indeed, as Monty puts it, he has not been beaten over 72 holes here as last year he only lost in a play-off to David Carter. The Englishman was pipped himself only last Sunday at Slaley Hall by the tour's new wonderkid, 25-year-old David Park.
Only three weeks ago, Park won pounds 600 for finishing 20th in Austria on the Challenge Tour. Then the Welshman lost a six-hole play-off to Miguel Angel Martin in the Moroccan Open before winning only his second full tour event. Not even Spain's impressive Sergio Garcia, who plays here, could manage that.
Mark James confirmed yesterday that he will not be a playing captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team in September. He said he will decide in about four weeks whether to give up the captaincy to play.
DRUIDS GLEN CARD
Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par
1 433 4 10 440 4
2 190 3 11 522 5
3 339 4 12 174 3
4 432 4 13 471 4
5 517 5 14 399 4
6 476 4 15 456 4
7 405 4 16 535 5
8 166 3 17 203 3
9 389 4 18 465 4
Out 3,347 35 In 3,665 36
Total 7,012 yards, par 71
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