John Daly took to Torrey Pines on Thursday as he always does, dressed in the garish hues of Loudmouth Golf. (How would you describe the ensemble there at right? I'm going with "pumpkin pie on shag carpet.")
And for whatever reason, it worked out just fine. After one round, he's three strokes behind Sung-hoon Kang's lead, tied for fifth at 5-under.
Ah, but that's not the full story with Daly. It never is, is it? No, after his fine round, he decided to pop off at a couple of tournaments that haven't extended him invitations to play.
Daly, who hasn't won in seven years, can generally cruise on the strength of his popular appeal and, in some cases, his British Open win to get exemptions. But the days of full PGA Tour exemption are long behind him, and he has to sweat now to make it into tournaments on sponsors' exemptions. So when two familiar venues, the Hope and the Phoenix/Waste Management Open, don't open their doors to the once-burly basher, well, let's just say he's not pleased:
"I'll tell you this: I'll never go back to the Hope and I'll never go back to Phoenix, no matter what happens. I won't even send letters anymore. I'm not saying that to ditch the tournaments. I'm just saying that if you look at my past, everything the Thunderbirds have ever wanted me to do for 20 -- well, 17, 16 years I'm sure I did it for them. I helped get celebrities go to the Hope. I helped them out. I went to their parties and did everything for them. That is the kind of stuff that we all want our young players to do out here to help the tournaments, and I felt like I did my part. It hurt me for those two tournaments not to give me spots. So I'll go to Europe on those weeks."
And while his off-course drama always seems to overshadow his on-course play, Daly also concedes that he's had injury problems that have dogged him for years. Daly points to the Honda Classic in 2007, when he injured himself when a photographer snapped a camera in his backswing, as the source of many of his most recent woes. "These last 3 1/2 years since the flash of the camera at Honda, it's just ruined my career. I'm not going to lie about it," he said. "When you separate a shoulder and two fractures in a rib and a torn cartilage in one snapshot, it's been tough ... It's caused a lot of hip problems."
Still, Daly has legions of fans, many of whom see him as an extension of themselves, many of whom are willing to cheer him on through all his travails. That's good and all, but if he's able to put in a solid showing without melting down this week at Torrey Pines, who knows what doors might swing back open for him?