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Daly goes over the river and through the woods
Watching John Daly play Southern Hills is like watching somebody drive on the wrong side of the highway. He wasn't quite as amazing in a topsy-turvy 73 Friday, but he again thrilled his huge gallery with an awesome display of power golf.
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- If Tiger Woods is a Rembrandt, John Daly is a paint-by-number Elvis on black velvet. Tacky, for sure. Yet there's something oddly endearing about it, and you can't help but gawk.
Especially when Daly pulls stunts like he did Friday on No. 10 at Southern Hills.
At 366 yards, downhill and with a big dogleg to the right, a 4- or 5-iron off the tee is the smart move for this par 4. It leaves players with a short approach, and a good chance for birdie.
Daly? He waited for the green to clear, then pulled out driver and ripped it.
"We're not set up to find that shot," a TV announcer said as the ball rocketed toward the green.
Thing is, Daly doesn't do anything by anybody's plans. Never has. Which is why, despite the blistering heat and suffocating humidity, a Tiger-sized gallery was following every move of the topsy-turvy 3-over 73 that turned him back into America's favorite side show after a brief stay atop the leaderboard at the PGA Championship.
"For some reason," wife Sherrie said during a brief interview Friday as she walked the course, "everyone likes John."
He hits driver when he should hit irons. He opts for slot machines over practice rounds. He smokes cigarettes and chugs diet soda when water and an energy bar would be better.
And that fairway in front of him? Well, that's merely a suggestion.
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"Do you think they would have booed him if he'd pulled out an iron?" Todd Hamilton asked after watching Daly tee off on No. 10.
Conservative is not a word that has ever existed in Daly's dictionary, and being two shots off the lead after the first round of a major wasn't going to change his mind. Even if a win -- heck, a solid showing even -- could recharge a career that has seemingly dead ended after falling to 423 in the world rankings.
So he went for every green -- and got to know just about every inch of Southern Hills' rough and woods. Of 14 fairways, he hit a measly one and that wasn't until 11 holes into the round. He duffed an easy sand shot and missed more putts than a weekend hack.
He did birdie the last hole to stay at even-par for the tournament, and in a six-way tie for ninth.
"The fairways are just so hard to hit," Daly said. "I just kept grinding, grinding, grinding."
Not that fans cared. If they wanted textbook or pretty golf, they would have followed Woods or Geoff Ogilvy. Or sat home watching a tape of Jack Nicklaus. No, fans simply adore Daly because he plays like they wish they could.
His shot off the 13th tee went so far left, he was almost on the next hole over, No. 17. The sensible route would have been to punch back onto 13, and the marshals went ahead and moved the gallery to clear just such a path.
But as Daly got to the ball, his eyes darted left. That 17th fairway was wide open, calling his name. He looked at the path the marshals cleared several times, but his eyes kept going back to 17.
Finally, his caddie told everybody to move. The circus had just rolled into town.
Daly punched the ball forward, landing squarely on the 17th fairway. The players coming up the hole laughed when they saw him, and one caddie said, "In the middle again, huh?"
But Daly knew what he was doing. He had an unobstructed -- not to mention shorter -- shot to the green, and his third shot put him within 8 feet of the hole. Fans whooped and hollered, and Daly was grinning as he lumbered to the green.
OK, so he two-putted from there. That's not the point. Daly is pure entertainment -- on and off the course.
He's a two-time major champion, but he hasn't won a PGA TOUR event in three years and doesn't even have a card anymore. The closest he got to this year's Masters was an autograph session down the road at the local Hooters.
He did have a brief moment of grandeur at the Open Championship, but it lasted all of 15 minutes. After pitching in on the 11th hole for an eagle in the first round, he found himself as a most unlikely leader. He went on to miss the cut.
His personal life would make Jerry Springer cringe. He freely admits to drinking and gambling too much, to say nothing of that nasty nicotine habit. Sherrie is Wife No. 4 and while they've been married for six years, it hasn't exactly been domestic bliss.
Just two months ago, Daly showed up at a TOUR stop in Memphis with a face full of scratches that he blamed on Sherrie, saying she came after him with a steak knife. They've since reconciled. Or at least are getting along well enough to come to Southern Hills with the kids.
Don't ask about it, though.
"That's where we end," Sherrie Daly said.
But it's hard not to love the big lug. That's why the people keep showing up.
"I've been telling him he could win soon," Sherrie Daly said. "He's due. He hasn't had much luck."
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.