Daly shows he's not going anywhere (again)
If misery really loves company, then Ernie Els has some new friends this week.
Ernie's failures to come through on major Sundays this year are already legendary, but so are those of some other big names.
Sure, Annika Sorenstam won one major this year, but she's looked awfully ordinary in the other three -- talk of the "Annika Slam" sure didn't last long -- including Sunday at the Women's British Open, where a final-round 71 left her in an eight-way tie for 13th place.
Not included in this foursome, however, is John Daly, who has plenty to smile about.
When he won the Buick Invitational earlier this year, one thing was proven: John Daly is back.
When he finished second to Vijay Singh in the Buick Open on Sunday, one more thing was proven: John Daly might be here to stay for a while.
Forget about the missed six-footer for par on 18; forget about the abundance of Ryder Cup points he missed out on by not winning; forget about what could have been. John Daly played with the big boys this weekend and showed he's still part of the club, sandwiched on the leaderboard between the world's No. 3- and No. 1-ranked golfers. Gone are the shakes and the bouts with self-confidence, revealing a man who owns one of the best long and short games in the world.
But as much as Daly needs golf, golf needs him even more. With Daly taking on Tiger Woods and Singh in the final round, the normally mundane Warwick Hills gallery transformed into Bethpage of the Midwest.
Sports can't have too many heroes, and the Legend of Long John Daly is a story that fans can watch over and over again. Perhaps the best is yet to come. Only 38 years old, Daly is younger than PGA Tour rookie Todd Hamilton and two of the world's top five (Singh and Davis Love III are older). He's at a point in his life where many pros start winning more and getting better.
If that happens, then the legend will grow even larger.
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It certainly didn't affect his game, which looked better than it had in quite some time, but Tiger Woods' final-round shirt left something to be desired. The maroon item -- that's right, Tiger has eschewed his patented blood red for something a few shades darker -- was flecked with white spots. Tiger needed only to paste a few snapshots onto the shirt to complete the look first worn by Ben Crenshaw and the 2000 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
He wasn't originally going to play the Buick, but after a disappointing T-13 finish at the U.S. Bank Championship, Jerry Kelly felt he needed to collect some Ryder Cup points at Warwick Hills. Despite a poor record in the tournament (his previous best finish was T-32), Kelly shot a final-round 66 to finish T-8 and earned enough points to jump past Jeff Maggert and into the top 10.
Kelly wasn't the only one making a move in the Ryder standings this week. Stewart Cink's fifth-place finish moved him from 19th in the standings to 13th, and while Scott Verplank's T-10 didn't move him from the 12th spot, it did place him closer to the top 10. With Fred Funk (currently eighth) nursing a rib injury, expect the final three spots to remain up for grabs right up until the final hole of the PGA Championship.
Entering the Buick, Scott Hend led the PGA Tour in driving distance, with an average of 313.0 yards off the tee. Hend's short game, however, leaves something to be desired. On the 18th hole in the first round of the Buick, Hend was faced with a five-foot par putt from just above the hole. Not only did he miss, but he also slid it five feet past. His bogey putt again slid past the hole, in the same line as his par putt, but only two feet away. Hend then lipped out the two-footer for double-bogey, the ball squirting five feet past the hole -- to the exact same place his bogey putt had been from. Putting for triple-bogey, Hend missed again -- as if you had any doubt -- before finally, and exasperatingly, tapping in for a five-putt quadruple-bogey eight to finish with a 5-over 77.
You read it here first: Watch out for David Duval at this week's International in Denver. He lives in Colorado and is comfortable playing in the thin air. Duval won't challenge for the title, but don't be surprised if he survives his first cut since June 2003.
Briny Baird aced the 197-yard third hole on Thursday, the same hole where his father, Butch, had the Buick Open's first hole-in-one in 1962.
Sure, it won't matter because both of them will be on the U.S. team this year and for many more years to come. But don't think for a minute that Phil Mickelson isn't keeping an extra eye on the top of the Ryder Cup standings, where he trails rival Tiger Woods by 101 points. If Mickelson finishes in the top three at the PGA Championship and Tiger doesn't, Phil should overtake him for the overall lead, which means nothing other than bragging rights for Phil staking a claim as the best American golfer right now. A check of the President's Cup standings (which are computed differently than Ryder points) shows Mickelson ahead of Tiger by almost 2 million points.
This year's version of Battle of the Bridges takes place Monday night, as Tiger and Hank Kuehne pair up against Mickelson and Daly. Who wins? Well, as the saying goes, throw out the record books when these teams face each other. The contest will feature four long drive competitions, each worth $75,000. Let's just hope no one pulls a ribcage muscle trying to drive a par 5.
Peter Jacobsen is an affable man in a world of mostly stoics. A Jake press conference is guaranteed to carry a few good one-liners, and Sunday's post-round gabfest certainly had its share:
NBC cameras caught a leaderboard on 14th hole at Bellerive with Peter Jacobsen's last name misspelled "Jacobson". The error was quickly fixed, but as NBC announcers pointed out, Jacobsen's Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" impersonation sure would have fit the bill.
When the Champions Tour extended from four majors to five in 2003, surely officials thought it would just be one more week where the seniors got their time in the limelight. However, the extra major cheapens the importance of the other four, especially when it seems like there's one every week (this was the second major in as many weeks and the third in the last four weeks). The Senior British is a worthy major, but the suggestion here is to rotate the Players and the Tradition as a major every year.
You might have thought it was a pretty good weekend for the Haas family. While Jay was busy finishing in a share of third in St. Louis, Hunter Haas worked his way into a playoff before succumbing to Bradley Hughes at the Nationwide Tour's Wichita Open. Great story, except for one minor detail -- the two Haases aren't related.
The career paths of Karen Stupples and Todd Hamilton, winners of this year's British Open championships, compare and contrast nicely. Both earned their first major title after winning their first tour event earlier in the season. Whereas Illinois native Hamilton went overseas to the Japan Tour to gain experience, Stupples left her hometown of Dover, England, to play golf at Florida State.
Sunningdale GC isn't your typical course and certainly doesn't adhere to normal major course standards. Starting with two par 5s -- a 476-yard and a 475-yard -- means you have to come out firing and make birdies right off the bat. Or eagles. Or double eagles. Just ask Stupples, who started her Sunday round eagle-double eagle. She was 5 under after two holes and, coincidentally, won the championship by five strokes.
Karrie Webb followed up a WD at the Evian Masters with another at the Women's British. Reportedly, Webb is in her native Australia, dealing with personal issues.
Who is Bo Van Pelt? Quite possibly the best American golfer you've never heard of. After failed attempts on tour in 1999 (when he finished 210th on the money list) and 2002 (191st), Van Pelt earned his way back to the big show with a fifth-place finish on last year's Nationwide Tour money list. The third time's been the charm for Van Pelt, who is currently 32nd on the money list, ensuring he'll keep his Tour card for the first time. He has made 16 cuts in 20 starts this season, including five top-10s and 11 top-25s.
"I didn't see it go in the hole, but there was a huge cheer from the crowd. I thought, 'Crikey, it could be my day.' "
-- Karen Stupples, after making double eagle on the second hole in the final round of the Women's British Open.
Information from ESPN.com's wire services is included.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.