Daly and Rocca, British Open rivals, paired together at Sicilian Open

John Daly
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Since returning from an elbow injury, John Daly has finished 51st at the Transitions Championship in Florida and missed the cut at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | 1:53 p.m.

Seventeen years after they faced each other in a playoff at the 1995 British Open, John Daly and Costantino Rocca are playing partners again on Thursday at the start of the Sicilian Open on the European Tour.

Rocca is now 55 and plays nearly all his golf on the European Seniors Tour, but 45-year-old Daly is still striving to get back into the big time. And, no longer a full member of the PGA Tour, he has been travelling the world to try to do it.

After the promise of fourth place at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters early last month, the American then injured his elbow in India. He was 51st on his return to action at the Transitions Championship in Florida two weeks ago, but last Friday missed the halfway cut at the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.

"Seems like yesterday," he said of his clash with Rocca at St. Andrews in 1995.

Rocca made a dramatic 60-foot par putt from the Valley of Sin to force the playoff, but Daly won it to add the Claret Jug to his 1991 PGA Championship victory.

He should have happy memories as well of the last time he and Rocca were at the same tournament. That was the 2009 Italian Open in Turin, and Daly finished tied for second behind Argentina's Daniel Vancsik.

Highest-ranked player in this week's field is 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, who despite finishes of second and sixth the past two weeks could not force his way into the world's top 50 in time for next week's Masters.

"I've played great in my last two tournaments, so the confidence is there and I am really looking forward to Sicily now," he said. "The Masters would have been an amazing bonus if I had won last week, but I have a great chance to win this week and that would be a great achievement. I think everybody would love to win in their home country."

France's Raphael Jacquelin won at Donnafugata last year, but the tournament switches to the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort.

There is one player in the field who is Augusta-bound, but Thomas Levet is going there to commentate for French television again rather than play. He will play with Daly and Rocca and has something in common with them. He was in a British Open playoff at Muirfield 10 years ago, but lost at the fifth extra hole to Ernie Els.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson, meanwhile, will hope that his three-eagle 61 on Sunday is a sign of things to come. This is his 249th European Tour start and he has yet to win.

England's 51-year-old Barry Lane, meanwhile, plays his 681st event, only 25 fewer than record-holder Sam Torrance.