1:47 | Tour & News
Zurich Classic teams a mix of both strategy and pageantry
The two-man teams at the 2017 Zurich Classic will provide golf fans with endless entertainment this week. Here are some highlights our panelists are looking forward to.
By Alan Shipnuck
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — Greetings from the Big Easy. As it turns out, I'm staying at the same hotel as many of the players and in just one evening have already been witness to assorted crimes against humanity, with denim being the weapon of choice. The Euros appear to all be wearing the same pair of too-tight designer jeans with button-pockets in the back. Their American brethren are disconcertingly pairing their jeans with loafers. Gawd help us all. Anyway, to your excellent questions…

What's your best John Daly story? -Ryan (@therealsneek1)

The most time I ever spent around Daly was at the 1997 PGA Championship, when I shadowed him for an SI feature. The preceding months had been wild, even by Daly's standards:

He withdrew after the first round of the Players following a late-night drinking binge so excessive it landed him in a hospital; two days later he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic; a few days after that his third wife, Paulette, filed for divorce; on Daly's birthday, three weeks later, he got dumped by his primary sponsor, Wilson; two months after that, at the U.S. Open, he walked off of Congressional midway through the second round due to the shakes that came with his newfound sobriety. When I caught up with Daly he was still trying to piece his life back together, but the fans had never left him. Following the second round he parked next to Tiger on the driving range. The sun was getting low but the bleachers were packed; Tiger was playing his first major since his game-changing blowout at Augusta. Daly started smashing drivers and the thousand or so fans lining the range started whooping and hollering. At some point he glanced up at Woods, who had stopped hitting balls and was leaning on his driver, hand on hip, enjoying the show. Daly woofed at him. Woods then turned to the crowd, flashed a smile and teed up a ball. The fans roared. Woods brought the club back majestically and … did a little half swing, bunting the ball 100 yards. Then his practice session resumed in earnest. "I can learn a lot from him," Daly told me. "He handles himself so well."

We sat and talked in the locker room at Winged Foot. He pulled from his pockets a dozen sobriety medals that had been pressed on him by fans; AA members receive them to mark various milestones of their journey. Daly was using the medals as ball markers and sources of inspiration.

I couldn't help but be struck by how Daly seemed like a wounded puppy dog, or maybe a world weary little boy. For all of his screw-ups there was an undeniable sweetness there. I finally understood why so many people still cared about him. He told me he had just written a song, and I had him jot down the lyrics in my notebook:

"I'm living one day at a time/

Yes I'm doing just fine/

This is my life, let it be known/

This is my life, through the years I have grown/

Please God don't give up on me/This is my life"

I remember thinking after our long chat that Daly had finally found himself, and that he had finally conquered his demons. The next day, while playing the 12th hole, he hit a wild tee ball and chucked his Big Bertha driver into the woods.

John Daly

John Daly is still drawing crowds on the PGA and Champions tours.
Scott Halleran/PGA of America via Getty Images

Build your dream format for a four-round team event. -Alex (@alexjhuang)

Round 1: Better-ball
Round 2: Both balls in play, worse score counts
Round 3: Alternate shot
Round 4: Worse-ball scramble

Clearly, I enjoy suffering.

If Tiger heals up and returns in 2018, how awesome would a Woods/Mickelson team for the Zurich be? #AskAlan -Justin (@jafowler85)  

So awesome my face would melt, then my brain would liquify and leak out of my ears. Funny thing is, Phil would absolutely do it. Whatever their history, he knows what a blockbuster moment this pairing would be, and he'd relish the spotlight—not to mention the chance to carry Tiger for two days and then talk junk about it on every Tuesday night of Masters week in perpetuity. The old Tiger would never have entertained such a notion, but if he ever makes it back to the Tour – which I doubt – it will be in a ceremonial role. Why not give the people what they want? Otherwise, what are Bridgestone, et al paying him for?

How dire is the situation with the PGA Tour that the biggest story is a guy who hasn't played for years and is still not playing? #AskAlan -David (@DStan58)

Tiger is no longer the biggest story, but he is irresistible click-bait. We all read the stories (and, uh, write them) out of nothing more than habit, and perhaps a morbid curiosity. The Tour is fine, and will be fine. Golf has always been a niche sport. For a while Tigermania made people think the game could crossover into the mainstream. It hasn't happened, and that's fine. If a person is not excited about Rory, DJ, Jordan, JDay and assorted others doing their thing, Tiger making it back is not going to turn him or her into an actual fan. And we won't miss them.

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Everything you need to know about the new Zurich Classic format

How long is golf … on the Oaks course at TPC San Antonio? –Bob (@BobEstesPGA)

Well, Bob, at least you got paid to play it. If I had to play that course regularly I'd suddenly become very interested in tennis.

How low could Patrick Reed be on the Ryder Cup points list and still get a captain's pick for 2018? #AskAlan –Mike (@MikeMcCarten)

Pgatour.com currently lists 38 players in the U.S. Ryder Cup points race. Reed is 31st. I'd say as long as he is in the top one million he'll get a pick.

Your average Tour pro on the range hitting 100 balls, how many misshits does he have (i.e. not 100% pured)? I'm guessing less than five. -@markson

Well, if Henrik Stenson is average, then you're probably right. But if this player is truly average, the number is significantly higher. But this is the crucial thing: the mishits are only five or seven yards or maybe 12 yards off-line. In other words, still in play. And then with their magical short-games they can wedge it close. And then make the putt.

Spinning off this week's format, if you scribes had to work together to meet a deadline, what would be some of the likely combos? #AskAlan -Chris (@ctimmerman35)

Well, I would certainly pick Bamberger. Fans of The Swinger, the novel he and I co-wrote, will be interested to know that after years of browbeating, I think I've finally talked Bamby into collaborating on a sequel. The other day he dashed off a rough outline that is pure genius. What happens next? You guys will be the first to know.

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