Daly would be wise to focus on European Tour for rest of 2009

Updated: May 27, 2009

John Daly's suspension, one that was never acknowledged officially in the first place, is over. He said the PGA Tour suspended him for six months, and given the timeline and his actions since, we have to take him at his word, as silly as all this may be.

John Daly

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

In four European Tour events in May, John Daly has made the cut three times with a top finish of T-2 at the BMW Italian Open.

The PGA Tour does not comment on suspensions as a matter of policy. Why a sports league feels it is OK to not even announce significant suspensions for its players still leaves you scratching your head.

Part of the reason for doling out a suspension -- and in Daly's case, one that was certainly justified -- is to try to curb the behavior that led to it. And a public disclosure to fans that a star attraction is being kept from the playing field for six months -- six months! -- should be a sign that such actions are not being tolerated.

So we can only surmise that the PGA Tour was not happy with Daly last year for various transgressions documented time and again. But we can't say so officially because nobody at tour headquarters will say so.

Again, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but few things involving the Daly of recent vintage have made sense ... unless we're talking about his golf and where it should be played.

Daly told The Associated Press this week that his suspension has been lifted and that he plans to make his 2009 PGA Tour debut in Memphis the week before the U.S. Open.

That would be a home game for Daly, 43, and if the tournament is willing to give him a sponsor's exemption, good for him and them.

But Daly the golfer ought to consider making it a onetime deal this year on the PGA Tour and sticking to Europe. Why? Because that is where he has a better shot at success, where he could gain some confidence, make money and be productive.

The chances of that on the PGA Tour, where he has to rely on sponsors' exemptions, are remote. Daly has not earned enough money in each of the past three years to retain playing privileges. But he'll do it this year starting his season in June?

And to his credit, Daly seems to recognize this.

"I don't really have any goals at home now because I'm so far behind," Daly said last week in England, where he played in the BMW Championship at Wentworth and tied for 72nd. "I'm kind of a little far behind here, but I feel like I could maybe make a move and maybe get in the Race to Dubai here. So I definitely will try and get some tournaments in the States, but there's no way I'm going to get 15 in.

"All I know is there's two or three exemptions I know I'm getting right now. The Fall Series, you never know. So I want to go. If I get into Memphis, I would like to play Memphis, but after that, I don't know what I'm going to do."

Daly knows that this week he is playing the European Open in Kent and could play next week's Wales Open. He then could return to play the Memphis Open the following week and plot the rest of his summer.

And if he's smart, he'll look toward Europe.

Daly is currently 94th in the Race to Dubai, having earned 144,321 euros, most of it coming from a second-place finish three weeks ago in Italy. By finishing among the top 60, he would be eligible for the season-ending $10 million bonus pool.

Hurting Daly's chances is the fact that he is not eligible for the remaining World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational or the U.S. Open -- both of which count on the European money list.

But as a past British Open winner, Daly can play at Turnberry in the summer and pick off the Scottish Open the week before and the SAS Masters the week after -- provided he receives invites, which so far have been forthcoming. He also can play in the PGA Championship, which counts in Europe.

Daly said he has lost about 50 pounds with the help of lap-band surgery. His work with instructor Rick Smith appears to be paying some dividends with his game, although Daly admits there is a long way to go.

Still, what Daly has accomplished in a month's worth of European events after being away for a good bit is impressive in a small-steps sort of way. Now the idea is to build on it. For now, the best place to do that would appear to be across the pond -- even though the mysterious suspension is apparently a thing of the past.

"I'm just going to play it by ear, but I definitely am going to come back over here, no doubt," he said.

Qualifying tournaments for two majors on the same day

Let's see whether we can keep this straight: On Monday, there was a U.S.-based qualifier for the British Open, while there also was a British-based qualifier for the U.S. Open. Don't feel bad if you're confused.

First, the British Open qualifier. It was played at the Queens Course at the Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas. Eight spots were available in the British Open field at Turnberry, and Matt Kuchar led the way. Others who qualified were Jeff Overton, Fredrik Jacobson, Davis Love III, James Driscoll, Martin Laird, Richard S. Johnson and Tim Wilkinson.

This was one of five international final qualifying tournaments put on by the R&A to give players from around the world a chance to qualify for the Open Championship. Others have been played in Africa, Australia and Asia, with one more to go in England on June 8 (which happens to be the last day of sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open).

The Texas location makes sense because the PGA Tour is between stops in Dallas and Forth Worth -- although this is far earlier than usual. Last year's British Open qualifier took place in June following the Buick Open in Michigan.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Open qualifier for next month's event at Bethpage, N.Y., was taking place Monday in England at Sunningdale, near the site of the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship and on the way to another European stop, this week's European Open. Eleven spots were available in the 36-hole qualifier, with Simon Khan and Raphael Jacquelin leading the way.

But the highlight came when a playoff was needed to fill out the 11 spots. Seven players were competing for five spots, and when four of the players birdied the first extra hole, just three remained for the final position: Peter Hanson, Richard Bland and Stephen Gallacher.

Hanson then proceeded to knock a 6-iron into the hole at the par-3 17th to secure the final spot.

A look at this week's PGA Tour venue

The PGA Tour returns to one of the game's venerable layouts this week for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. Colonial Country Club has been the event's only home since the tournament's inception in 1946, when Ben Hogan won by a shot over Harry Todd, the first of his record five victories in the event.

This will be the 62nd Colonial, with the tournament missing just one year -- 1949.

And this course offers evidence that a golf course does not have to be extremely long to offer a challenge.

Although a good number of low scores have been shot at Colonial -- you pretty much had better shoot all four rounds under par to win -- it still is notable that Phil Mickelson won last year despite going just 2 under par in his final round.

The par-70 course has been lengthened from 7,054 yards to 7,204 for this year's tournament. That still is short by PGA Tour standards, but there are many doglegs and tree-lined fairways that make accuracy far more important than length.

Last year, Colonial ranked 25th out of 54 courses in difficulty on the PGA Tour. The course record is 61, shot six times since 1993, the last by Chad Campbell during the third round in 2004. Kenny Perry did it during the third round in 2003 and went on to win the tournament.

The most difficult hole on the course last year is also one of its most famous. The par-4 fifth measures 472 yards and is the last of what is called the "Horrible Horseshoe." Last year, it played to an average of 4.248.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.


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Birdies and bogeys

Birdies:

1. Paul Casey. With his victory at the BMW PGA Championship, the Englishman has won on three continents this year, including twice on the European Tour. At the start of the year, Casey was ranked 41st in the world. He has now jumped to No. 3 behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

2. Michael Allen. In his first Champions Tour start, Allen -- who competes regularly on the PGA Tour -- won the Senior PGA Championship, a tournament for which he needed a special invitation.

3. Rory Sabbatini. You have to give it up to the South African: On his way to his fifth career PGA Tour victory, he set a tournament scoring record at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Bogeys:

1. Phil Mickelson. Lefty is unable to defend his Colonial title this week, and for good reason, because of the news last week that his wife, Amy, has breast cancer. No doubt it is a shame that Mickelson cannot continue what was already a strong season, but the sad circumstances far outweigh golf.

2. Corning Classic. The LPGA said goodbye to one of its longest-running events this past weekend, the type of small-town tournament that used to be the backbone of the tour.

3. Adam Scott. The free fall continues. At an event he won last year, Scott missed the cut at the Byron Nelson, his sixth straight on the PGA Tour.

The return of Ian Baker-Finch

To a younger generation of golf fans, Ian Baker-Finch is a television analyst with a funny accent. But there was a time when the Aussie could play. He won the 1989 Colonial and captured the 1991 British Open at Royal Birkdale for one of his 16 professional victories.

But somewhere along the way, Baker-Finch lost his game, and it was tough to watch. At the 1995 Open at St. Andrews, for example, he hooked his drive so badly off the first tee that it went out of bounds. During a two-year period, Baker-Finch either missed the cut or withdrew from 29 consecutive tournaments. An opening-round 92 at the 1997 Open Championship caused him to essentially retire from competitive golf.

Since that 1997 Open, Baker-Finch's only tournament appearance came at the 2001 Colonial, where he missed the cut.

So, eight years later, he is back. Sort of. Baker-Finch, who now works as a CBS TV analyst, will play this week's Colonial, an invitational that allows its past champions to participate. Now 48 years old, Baker-Finch is said to play quite well away from the glare of tournament golf, and he'd like to gauge his game, as he has an eye on the Champions Tour.

Notables

• Rory Sabbatini, coming off a victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, will attempt to join Ben Hogan as the only players to sweep the Nelson and Colonial in the same year. Hogan did it in 1946, the first year of the Colonial.

• The "Horrible Horseshoe" continues to be a trouble spot at Colonial. It is a three-hole stretch -- Nos. 3, 4 and 5 -- that traditionally causes fits. Last year, the holes ranked seventh, third and first in difficulty for the tournament. The par-3 fourth is a brute at 252 yards followed by a 472-yard par-4.

• Colonial, which was built in 1936, first gained fame by becoming the first course south of the Mason-Dixon Line to hold a U.S. Open. Craig Wood won the Open in 1941, and by 1946, the club had its own PGA Tour event. It is now the longest-running event on the PGA Tour to be played at the same layout and the 10th-oldest event on tour.

• With his victory at the Senior PGA Championship, Michael Allen will be exempt for a year on the Champions Tour, through next year's Senior PGA. That means he has some decisions to make. Allen has played exclusively on the PGA Tour this year, having made nine cuts in 12 starts; his best finish is a tie for 22nd at Pebble Beach.

• This week's European Open at the London Golf Club will mark the professional debut of Ireland's Shane Lowry, who won the Irish Open two weeks ago -- the first time he played in a professional event. Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson also are in the field.

Quotable

"This game is just so stupid sometimes."
-- Peter Hanson, who made a hole-in-one Monday on the second extra hole of a U.S. Open qualifier near London to gain that location's final spot at Bethpage.

Catching up with last year's champ

Phil Mickelson won last year's Colonial with a dramatic birdie from the trees on the 72nd hole, becoming the only player to have won at least twice in a season for the past five years. Mickelson extended that streak to six this year with victories at the Northern Trust Open and the CA Championship, but he won't be at Colonial to defend.

Mickelson announced last week that he is taking an indefinite break from the PGA Tour to be with his wife, Amy, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Word at the time was that she may face surgery soon. And so Mickelson, ranked No. 2 in the world, is understandably putting his family first.

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial picks

Horse for the course. Kenny Perry. He will make his 20th start at Colonial, having made 17 cuts with four top-10s and two victories. Perry set the tournament scoring record of 261 during his 2003 and 2005 victories.

Birdie buster. Brian Davis. The Englishman has not won, but he heads into Colonial on a roll, having finished tied for fifth at the Players Championship and Valero Texas Open and second last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Super sleeper. Corey Pavin. The current U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Pavin, 49, will make his 26th straight start at Colonial, where he has won twice and tied for 15th last year.

Winner. Justin Leonard. The Texas native, who contended at the Texas Open two weeks ago, has never missed a cut at the Colonial and has nine top-25 finishes. He posted a career-low 61 in 2003 when he finished second.