OpinionTuesday, January 14, 2014
Former stars chart routes to glory days
For most top golfers nowadays a 30,000 dollar cheque is mere chicken feed. But for once-feted double majors champion John Daly his Sunday payday in Hawaii may have been the best on-course excitement he’s had in recent times.
At age 47, Daly is on the tough comeback road after surgery last July to repair a torn right elbow tendon. He returned to competitive play at the tail end of the year at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, where a tie for 48th provided a glimmer of promise, then disappointingly missed the cut at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
To put that 30,000 in perspective, in the 12 events Daly played on the PGA Tour in 2013, his total winnings were just 43,543 dollars. More spine-chilling as well, because in his first start on the main tour since last year’s St. Jude Classic, Daly came very close to reinjuring that elbow, after hitting a greenside sand shot on his third hole of the second round.
Daly said he suffered swelling where the four metal pins had been inserted, but here’s the real change. Instead of excoriating everything in sight, the once-upon-a-time Wild Thing battled on, and made up for a deficient driver with twenty-two putts plus a chip-in to edge within the cut line. Then on Saturday, the swelling luckily abated, he carded an almost perfect 7-birdie 64, second best round of the week, to get somewhere he hasn’t been for the longest time — sight of the leaders.
Sunday’s even-par 70 put a small damper on the proceedings, easing him back into T-32; but for a man so long apparently living on borrowed time in this precarious and frequently humbling profession, this was exactly the 2014 start he needed to boost his confidence.
It will be a long struggle however to regain former glory. Daly’s tour status is non-exempt, playing on a medical exemption; but at least for now the guy in the loud pants is back and making the right sort of noise.
Think of the absolute antithesis of Daly and for anyone who’s been around the golf block a few years, the name conjured up is almost certainly David Duval. Remember him? Eyes always hidden by reflective shades, a forgettable dresser in khakis and pulled down caps, former world number one, winner of the 2001 Open Championship, who famously admitted that his overriding emotion after capturing golf’s oldest major was, “Is that all there is?”
And somehow the Golf Gods must have taken offense because now age 42, Duval has never won since. Give him his due Duval has remained upbeat, or at least as sanguine as one can when you plummet off the world rankings. So in an attempt to regain traction on the PGA Tour, Duval is using Twitter to seek sponsor exemptions in 2014, while adding this would be the last time he asks and that if he doesn’t perform well enough, he “would do something else.”