SAN MARTIN, Calif. -- When you consider the big picture of John Daly's life, last Saturday wasn't even a blip on the radar screen.
A 63 followed by an 86 created some buzz in the media center, caused a few players to scratch their heads, but we've come to expect a certain "inconsistency" out of Daly.
But Saturday was different.
There was no walking off the golf course or hitting golf balls that were still moving. Daly tried 86 times -- he simply played badly.
I was standing by the third green when the meltdown happened. Daly had just lipped out a putt at the second for a double bogey and drove into a lateral hazard to the left of the third fairway.
Daly walked down into the desert wash and disappeared from view. I then saw three quick puffs of dust emerge like smoke signals of distress. Those were strokes of frustration leading to an eventual quadruple-bogey 8.
While hitting those shots out of the arroyo, Daly jarred his elbow. He did not use that as an excuse, explaining he had a case of the "lefts" that he couldn't fix.
We have seen Daly play rapidly and post a big number in the past but there was effort on Saturday.
That was a big round for John. He had a chance to make a major move on the money list. A chance to be totally exempt for 2013, but when he walked out of that dry wash on the third hole, he was already slipping down the money list.
Daly made the cut and actually lost places, dropping to 137th on the money list with $488,505 in earnings. He needs to make anywhere from $125,000 to $250,000 -- perhaps more -- in the next three tournaments to be fully exempt.
To Daly's credit, he has succeeded this year in an area that's difficult to improve. He would have ranked 179th in strokes gained-putting in 2011 (if he had enough qualifying rounds), but this year he has improved to 23rd.
That's a remarkable jump for a 46-year-old and age has not robbed Daly of his length.
He's still "Long John Daly."
More than 50 percent of his drives travel more than 300 yards and he averages 307.2 yards per hit. That's eighth-best on TOUR.
Daly is four years away from the Champions Tour but let's savor his remaining time on the PGA TOUR.
It's a different John Daly. There is still some inconsistency but there is also the effort to improve.
Elevation:Players should change out those soft spikes this week for some steel. There is climbing to be done. CordeValle has just 150 feet in elevation change but a lot of steep hikes like at the fourth and sixth holes. Distances are deceptive. The 418-yard fourth hole plays longer uphill than the 454-yard fifth hole, which runs in the opposite direction. The 480-yard sixth is just a beast going straight uphill. The dramatic changes in elevation can make it difficult to choose the correct club.
Penultimate:The 17th hole is one of the great short par 4s on the PGA TOUR. With front tees it can be shortened to 300 yards and is drivable. As the 71st hole of the tournament, the 17th provides a great chance for drama with an eagle. Rocco Mediate chose to lay up off the tee in 2010 and still made eagle with a hole-out from the fairway.
Beast:The 480-yard sixth hole is usually a par 5 for casual play but is a difficult par 4 for the PGA TOUR. It runs straight uphill with bunkers flanking the left and right sides of the fairway. A 309-yard drive clears the second bunker on the right but few players have that number in their bag when hitting uphill. That leaves a long approach into an elevated green. It should be the hardest hole on the course this week.
Winner, winner:Bud Cauley introduced himself to the PGA TOUR at this event last year, finishing third. The Alabama grad had big 22 birdies at CordeValle in 2011 and that memory translates to his first PGA TOUR victory this week.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio,click here.
- John Daly
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