Don't get hopes too high for Daly

Brian Murphy
John Daly ended a nearly six-year drought of top-10 finishes with a tie for ninth at this year's Canadian Open

Think of all the things that have happened between Oct. 9, 2005, and July 24, 2011.

The iPhone was invented. The Oval Office changed hands from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. Even Tiger Woods has lived about 43 lifetimes in that time span. Between those dates, he won four majors, urged Jaimee Grubbs to change her outgoing voice mail and fell from No. 1 in the world to his current rank of No. 21.

What also occurred during that time span was the golf career of John Daly, continuing, unnoticed, spinning wheels in a ditch.

In that nearly six-year span, Daly did the following:

• Lost his exempt status on the PGA Tour.

• Lost swing coach Butch Harmon, who said the most important thing in Daly's life was not golf but getting drunk.

• Was picked up by the cops when drunk outside a Hooters restaurant in North Carolina.

• Got suspended by the PGA Tour for six months.

• Had lap-band surgery and lost 40 pounds.

• Started an endorsement career with Loudmouth Golf, wearing outrageous plaids and argyles.

• Shot 88 at the Buick Open in 2010.

• Failed to notch a single top-10 finish.

• And – are you ready for this? – between October '05 and last Sunday, Daly entered 103 PGA Tour events and failed to finish 62 of them.

Worse, 17 of those 62 were not missed cuts – they were withdrawals, or the evil golf initials "WD" – the scarlet letters of a player either breaking the rules, failing to fight through injury or jaking it.

Then came Sunday in Vancouver, Canada, at a place called Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club.

Carding rounds of 70-71-67-72 and wearing violet pants on Sunday, John Daly finished T-9th at the RBC Canadian Open.

That's his first top 10 since the fateful day in 2005 when he lipped out a 3-footer in a playoff with Tiger Woods at San Francisco's Harding Park – his last top 10, and his last relevant sighting on a golf course.

How unexpectedly amazing was Daly's Canadian Open top 10?

Canadians were so moved, that "Riot Make-Out Couple" from the post-Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver strongly considered saluting Daly with another saliva-swapping session on the 18th fairway Sunday. Some thought to clear the 18th green with a Zamboni before Daly made his final approach. Even one greenside man was seen weeping and told a reporter: "I haven't been this happy since Bryan Adams announced he was playing a free acoustic set in Moose Jaw."

All right, all right. I went for the B-level Canadian joke material. I'm worn out after attending Darren Clarke's wild British Open celebration party, which is set to wind down in time for the 2012 Ryder Cup.

But does this mean John Daly is back as a force in golf?

Only a fool would say so, and only after drinking four or five pitchers of Bud Light at a Hooter's, likely. What this does mean is that Daly, at age 45, remains one of golf's most fascinating creatures. He may rank third behind only Tiger and Phil Mickelson in terms of sheer compelling drama when he gets it going.

I was fortunate enough to be greenside when Daly missed that tiddler at Harding. It was breathtaking theater. We all thought it meant perhaps that Daly was launching a renaissance into his 40s and would play great golf like Vijay Singh. Instead, he left Harding Park right after missing the putt, walked into the parking lot, handed his putter to a bystander, sped past sun-dappled Lake Merced and drove to Las Vegas, where he promptly blew $1.65 million on slots. Unfortunately, he'd won only $750,000 for his runner-up finish.

So to call John Daly "back" after his top-10 finish in Canada is a fool's errand. To say it was fun to watch, to say it was encouraging, notable, worth our attention … all that is true.

But let's see what John Daly does next.

Scorecard of the week

69-73-66-68 – 4-under 276, Sean O'Hair, playoff winner, RBC Canadian Open at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, Vancouver, B.C.

Meanwhile, the winner on Sunday has his own things going on.

Golf has not been a bowl of cherries for Sean O'Hair. Or, more accurately put, golf has been sort of like a bowl of cherries – cherry pits, that is.

Long thought a candidate to win majors, O'Hair fell into a rut the past two years. Not only has the talented kid – wait, he's 29 years old now? Whoa! – not won since 2009, he's missed the cut in 10 of the 17 events he's played this year.

O'Hair has serious skill. He finished T-10th at the '09 Masters and T-7th at last year's British Open. But hard times visited him the last year, and O'Hair is taking drastic action: He fired his swing coach, Sean Foley, and his caddie, Brennan Little.

If I'm Sean Foley, hypothetically, I'm tossing and turning tonight. Not only has the guy who sacked me now gone on to win his first event in two years, my other famous pupil, Tiger, recently jettisoned his caddie. Hmmm. See a pattern? If I'm Foley, I'm leaving the phone off the hook tonight and pulling the covers over my head.

Anyway, give credit to O'Hair. He continues the trend of "Say what?" winners, coming into the Canadian Open ranked 114th in the world. O'Hair was being like the cool kids – 17 of this year's 29 winners on Tour were ranked 100th or higher before they won. He's in good company, too: Darren Clarke was ranked 111th when he teed off at the British Open.

Moreover, O'Hair might be the first guy ever to win after publicly admitting that he might have shot 79 in the Wednesday pro-am. True story. O'Hair said he was such a mess that day that he dialed back his expectations come Thursday. Maybe taking pressure off himself was the key.

Meanwhile, his pro-am partners probably spent the rest of the week telling their office mates: "Don't take O'Hair in the Canadian Open pool, eh? Hoser is a chop!"

Yeah, yeah. More B-level Canadian humor. So sue me. If you don't like it, wait a few months and hockey season will start.

Mulligan of the week

Meanwhile, over in France, we had Australians on bicycles celebrating in Paris (congrats, Tour de France winner Cadel Evans) and no sightings of Bubba Watson (he was in Sweden, finishing T-6th at the Nordea Masters), but we did have an Ai Miyazato-Stacy Lewis smackdown at the Evian Masters.

Or, pardon me – at the "future LPGA major" Evian Masters.

That's right, the LPGA is likely to make the annual French event into a major, joining the U.S. Women's Open, LPGA Championship, Kraft Nabisco Championship and Women's British Open as major championships.

Five majors is sort of like, I don't know, five appendages?

I like the idea of four majors. Four is a good number: the number of downs in football, the number of quarters in a basketball game, the number of light beers John Daly typically consumes on the back nine. You get my drift.

Back to the Evian Masters. Lewis, the plucky Yank who has overcome major back surgery to become a big-time player, was chasing Japan's Miyazato in a golf version of last week's women's World Cup soccer. Miyazato is a stud, a five-time winner in 2010 who admitted it was hard to concentrate on golf this year after the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami in her homeland.

Lewis is a stud, too. She already bagged a major this year at the Kraft Nabisco, beating back über-stud Yani Tseng by three strokes. With another win this summer, she has the potential to join Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr as the top American women golfers. After making birdie on 15 to get within one stroke of Miyazato, she had another birdie try on 16 to pull even, setting up a dramatic final two holes.

Only … she three-putted. Ack.

Bogey. Two back. Miyazato wins.

Make no mistake, Miyazato is a good story, too. She said she may donate her entire winnings to the victims of the tsunami, or at least a major portion of it.

Meanwhile, Lewis could have been a fun story. So, for the sake of women's golf duels, and for the sake of U.S. women's golf, which is hurting a little bit right now, let's go back out to 16 green and … give that woman a mulligan!

Broadcast moment of the week

"Basically, you could say I wasted two years of my life." – Steve Williams, Tiger Woods' former caddy, on New Zealand TV.


If it's true that Tiger fired Steve Williams for working Adam Scott's bag this summer, well, then, I defer to the tweet I saw from The Golf Channel's Jason Sobel, that said: "Kind of ironic Tiger divorced Steve Williams after the caddy wasn't faithful to him and started seeing another player."

Nice line.

By the way, I guess we can't call Steve Williams "Stevie" anymore, can we? That was Tiger's nickname for him, back in the salad days. And like the Tiger-worshipping sheep we all were, we all started calling him "Stevie," too.

Guess he's back to being Steve now.

A friend observed to me that Williams firing publicly at Tiger is not a good sign for Tiger's ability to handle interpersonal relationships. One might think that Williams, grateful for 12 years of riches, fame and friendship, would take the high road and keep his mouth shut. But by launching a broadside at Tiger, it indicates Tiger didn't reciprocate friendship in the manner that Williams expected.

Of course, it also could mean Williams revs hot and doesn't like looking the fool. Hence, the broadside.

Either way, Tiger's world grows more and more isolated from its glorious past.

Where do we go from here?

The Women's British Open starts at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland on Thursday and is the final women's major of the year – unless they add another one by September.

The PGA Tour heads to White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and the Old White Course for The Greenbrier Classic, where Mickelson, Daly and Tom Watson will play. It's great that Watson is playing, but I don't fancy his chances if there's not a kilt or haggis anywhere within a 10-mile radius of the clubhouse.

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