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Putting problems continue for John Daly

Six years after throwing his putter into a pond at the Australian PGA, John Daly is having trouble on the greens again.

Before heading off for a practice round at the Hyatt Regency resort course Tuesday, Daly said he’s tried just about everything to improve on poor putting that plagued most of his play at Hong Kong and at Huntingdale in last weekend’s Australian Masters, where he failed to make the cut.

“I’m trying new grips, trying to get my posture up, changing the lie and loft, everything I could possibly try, and nothing feels right,” said Daly, who spent nearly three hours on the practice green Monday. “It’s just a matter of keep practicing and sooner or later something might click.”

Two-time major winner Daly is returning to the scene of one of the most publicized blowouts in his stormy career. At the Australian PGA in 2002, he threw his putter and ball into the pond at the 18th green after his second round and was later disqualified for not signing his scorecard.

A scuba diver later retrieved the ball and putter, and it was mounted in the pro shop as a souvenir of the day—at least until this week. The display has been hidden away from an area near the pro shop which is doubling as a player lounge, just to save Daly any embarrassment.

“It would mean a lot to me this week to do well,” Daly said. “My record in Australia hasn’t been great.”

If he does well, it will be due to an improvement with the putter. When he shot a final-round 62 at Hong Kong two weeks ago, he had “27 or 28 putts.” Last week at Huntingdale in Melbourne, he shot a 1-over 73 Friday and had 37 putts before not qualifying for the weekend.

“That means my ball-striking is good, but I just hit some pretty poor putts last week,” Daly said. “I made a lot of putts I needed to make in Hong Kong, but not a lot outside of 8 feet that a lot of the guys do.”

Daly says he’ll play in next week’s Australian Open in Sydney, making it four tournaments in four weeks.

“I’ve said before that I need to play three or four weeks straight to get my rhythm right, and since I’m already down here, it makes sense,” Daly said.

He’s trying to make the best of what’s turned out to be a mediocre year, both on and off the course.

He spent a night in jail on Oct. 27 after being found “extremely intoxicated and uncooperative,” police said, outside a restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Daly has not had a PGA Tour card since 2006, when his two-year exemption expired from his last victory at the Buick Invitational in 2004. He made only five cuts in 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year and earned $56,000.

In 2009, he plans to play mostly on the European tour.

Before the Australian Masters, Australia’s Stuart Appleby described Daly’s life as a “trainwreck.”

Craig Parry, who played with Daly last week at Huntingdale—and in the American’s group at Coolum in 2002 before he was disqualified—is a Daly booster.

“He is always under pressure for his past, and I feel for the guy,” Parry said. “He’s got a ton of ability, and it was disappointing to see some players have a go at him for getting an invite.”

Geoff Ogilvie, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, said the sport needs players like Daly.

“He’s the most colorful character that’s played golf in the last 25 years,” Ogilvie said. “Hopefully he plays 72 holes (this week) and ends with 14 clubs.”

A less-known fact of Daly’s 2002 blowout was that in addition to throwing his putter and ball into the pond, he left behind his golf bag and clubs to the Australian branch of the “Make-A-Wish” foundation for a charity auction.

“He is a lovable type of guy and he has a heart of gold,” Parry said. “He’s just done some silly things. Frankly, I believe he has more ability than the whole field put together.”

The 42-year-old Daly hopes that ability carries him to a return to a top-50 ranking, and then perhaps another major to add to his 1991 U.S. PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open.

“I look forward to the British Open every year, it’s my favorite major,” Daly said. “Ever since I first saw St. Andrew’s in 1992 or ‘93 I fell in love with Open golf.”

Daly was asked, if given a choice, he’d rather have two majors and the headlines, or one major and a quiet time sitting in an armchair.

“Two majors,” Daly replied, laughing.

December 2, 2008

 




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