Daly’s game is lacking, but not his popularity

first_img“It was just brutal,” Daly said. “Nothing went right last year.” Still, Daly makes others feel good. People seem to feel a connection with him because he embodies a regular-guy persona and, like the fans in his galleries, deals with daily challenges. People now are returning the favor. Tiger Woods gave Daly an exemption to play in his Target World Challenge in December and Daly obliged. He finished last but pocketed a cool $170,000. Tournament organizers still can’t get enough of him. He asked and he received. “John Daly has a great crowd when he comes out here, just like Fred Couples,” said Tom Pulchinski, the Nissan Open tournament director. “Everyone loves to watch John Daly. He had a rough year, but he’s very popular and he brings in the fans. He likes to play, and he was aggressive enough to call me very early, so we gave him an exemption. That was a very easy decision.” Pulchinski said Daly called him sometime before Christmas, so Daly received an early present. The exemptions then flooded in. “I’ve had wonderful times at Riviera at the Nissan,” Daly said. Daly finished fourth in 2004, four shots behind champion Mike Weir. He has two other top-10 finishes and has made the cut nine of the 12 times he’s played at Riviera. Last year, he was 5-over par and missed the cut. The cigarette-smoking, Diet Coke-guzzling Daly definitely can play, and many admire his ability to hit the ball long off the tee. He’s driving an average of 305.9 yards this year. But if he doesn’t play well this year, perhaps the sponsors won’t be so free in lining up with exemptions. He played with Jason Gore in a charity shootout at Pebble Beach last week. Gore and Daly shared plenty of laughs, and the highlight was a chest bump after a clutch putt. Daly even playfully threw his wedge into a trap when he didn’t win a closest-to-the-pin contest. But when the master of ceremonies ushered Daly over to a microphone to chat for a bit on the green, Daly went under the ropes and said, “I’ve got to go eat.” Fans didn’t seem to mind, since the announcer joked that Daly isn’t a guy you want to mess with when he needs something to eat. He seems to have a bit of an edge. Daly’s best finish in a stroke-play event last year was a tie for 27th at the Verizon Heritage. He’s missed three of four cuts this year (Buick Invitational, FBR Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) and the pressure is mounting. He has just 166 FedExCup points. He’s proclaimed himself healthy, but he doesn’t have an improved golf game to show for it. Pulchinski was by no means extending pity with an exemption. He believes Daly could win. “He plays well here,” Pulchinski said. “It’s not like he plays here, draws well and never makes the cut. He has a chance to play well here. If he’s playing well and is in contention, he’ll draw a good television audience. If John was to pull off a win at Riviera &” People would be talking about Daly’s golf game once again. [email protected] (818) 713-3615 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! His sports career was in jeopardy when he lost his PGA Tour card last year, when he earned just $192,000. Daly, who was plagued by injuries and more missed cuts than productive starts, chose not to go to qualifying school. He instead spent his off-season writing letters and placing phone calls in an effort to attract sponsor exemptions to keep himself on tour. The Nissan Open was the first to jump on Daly’s bandwagon. LOS ANGELES – John Daly has endured several marriages and battled alcohol, gambling and weight problems. He’s raised children, donated generously to charity, performed and written songs and started a wine company. He’s won a couple of majors, too. But Daly’s so much more than just a golfer. Golf seemingly has been the one constant in his life. center_img Wherever the 40-year-old Daly goes, fans follow in droves. Tournament organizers followed suit. He received so many exemptions – somewhere between 25-30 – he won’t be able to use all of them. A rough season of golf quickly was erased by the love he received from tournaments. “The sponsor’s exemptions have been going great,” Daly said. “But this whole West Coast, I was a little worried, I didn’t know what was going to happen. There’s so many great players that have come out of this (area), San Diego and L.A. and all that. L.A. was the first one that gave me one. It just makes me feel good.” Last year’s list of poor performances included making only eight cuts in 21 starts. He withdrew from five of those. last_img read more