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Daly enjoying being a winner again

The applause was loud and sincere, the way it usually is when John Daly walks to the tee box. Only this time, the cheers were not about sympathy.

Daly is a winner again.

The six-year victory drought, filled with crumbled relationships and problems with alcohol addiction, ended last week when Daly tapped in a short birdie putt on the 72nd hole and won the BMW International Open in Germany.

Tim Herron called to congratulate him. So did Scott Hoch and David Duval.

``The players have been awesome,'' Daly said Wednesday after his pro-am round for the Canadian Open. ``It was the biggest win I've ever had. After six years, I proved to myself it can happen again.''

The trick is to do it again, and the Canadian Open would be a great place to start. Daly's goal is to finish in the top 40 on the PGA Tour money list or get into the top 50 on the world ranking at the end of the year, which would qualify him for the Masters.

He was not eligible this year for the first time since 1992.

Daly is 81st on the money list, and even a victory this week might not guarantee him another trip to Augusta National. He is playing four more times on the PGA Tour and feels like he has a chance whenever he tees it up.

The victory in Germany was no fluke.

Daly not only finished at 261, matching the lowest score ever recorded in a European tour event, he beat Padraig Harrington over the final 18 holes.

When his winning putt dropped, Daly waved to the gallery and hugged his caddie, his wife of one month and his agent. There were no tears, no fist pumps, hardly even a smile.

He was amazed when he won the PGA Championship in 1991, a remarkable victory for an unknown who was the ninth alternate. He was emotional after winning the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews in a four-hole aggregate playoff.

This was different.

``I was more relieved than anything,'' he said. ``It actually felt better than when I won the Open. I just didn't know if I was going to win again.''

With Daly, one never knows what to expect.

His life has been like a soap opera ever since winning the PGA Championship 10 years ago.

Three divorces. Two trips to alcohol rehab. The shakes he suffered while playing in Vancouver three years ago. The sponsorships that dried up.

The scores.

Daly took an 18 on a par-5 at Bay Hill, and six-putted for a 10 at Memorial. He swatted a moving ball with his putter at Pinehurst in the 1999 U.S. Open, took a 14 on the closing hole the following year at Pebble Beach and withdrew.

Perhaps that's why Daly remains one of the most popular figures on tour, a man with problems to which almost everyone can relate.

``I wanted to win for me,'' Daly said. ``But I also wanted to win for the fans.''


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