John Daly turns 50 this spring, and Champions events will celebrate
By Garry Smits
The PGA Tour Champions season opens Thursday in Hawaii, but the event that might have the biggest impact will be in less than four months when John Daly makes his debut at the Insperity Invitational, May 6-8, at The Woodlands Country Club near Houston.
Daly, a two-time major champion and one of the most colorful and controversial players of his generation, turns 50 on April 28. The Tour is off that week, making Insperity the holders of the Daly lottery ticket.
"Not only are we excited about this but John is also," said Inspirety Tournament Director Bruce Naugle. "I've had conversations with John and he's really looking forward to it. He's told me he wants to help in any way he can. This guy is all in."
Daly will be eligible for 19 events on PGA Tour Champions this season, 14 of them 54-hole tournaments with no cut. His prodigious power off the tee – always part of his allure with fans – and deft short game may translate well to shorter courses and generous hole placements.
Even though his golf career has been marked by suspensions, fines and alcohol-fueled incidents, Daly has enjoyed large gallery support in most tournament he has's played.
Daly's career highlights remain the 1991 PGA Championship, which he won after starting the week as the ninth alternate, and the 1995 British Open championship, when he defeated Costantino Rocca in a four-hole playoff.
Daly is expected to make the most impact of a rookie on PGA Tour Champions since Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino both became eligible in 1990.
"It's too early to tell yet, but there is a buzz about John playing here," Naugle said. "We fully expect ticket sales to go up significantly the closer we get to the tournament."
Stewart Moore, director of communications and strategy for PGA Tour Champions, said Daly's appeal transcends an otherwise inconsistent playing record. Daly won the last of his five Tour titles in 2004 and in the past five seasons, playing mostly on sponsor invitations, he made only 27 of 70 cuts (.300) and had three top-10 finishes.
"From a pure fan standpoint, John is been one of the most popular four or five players in our game," Moore said. "He reaches a spectrum of fans and TV viewers and that even some of the game's greatest players have never reached."
Daly is part of one of the strongest rookie classes in recent years for PGA Tour Champions (which recently changed its name from the Champions Tour). Also becoming eligible by turning 50 years is World Golf Hall of Fame member Jose Maria Olazabal and past British Open champion Todd Hamilton, and PGA Tour veterans such as Craig Parry, Billy Mayfair and Bob Estes.
PGA Tour Champions rookies for the 2017 season will include David Toms, Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly and Len Mattiace.
This article was written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.