Daly's antics overshadow big day at Australian Open

John Daly, 2011 Australian Open
Paul Miller / EPA
John Daly hit seven balls in the water before walking off the course.

SYDNEY — There were magical shots, heart-warming Australian Open storylines ... and then there was John Daly.

Only the serial troublemaker could have overshadowed Tiger Woods, an albatross, a cancer-surviving leader who continues to defy life's odds and a slew of newsworthy performances -- both good and bad -- by the American Presidents Cup players at The Lakes.

Daly, a regular visitor to Australia, may have played his last tournament Down Under when he dunked seven balls in succession into the water on the par-five 11th hole and stormed off the course.

Tiger Woods played a workmanlike but blemish-free round in the height of the afternoon wind to shoot four-under 68. He went bogey-free for the first time since playing in Dubai nine months ago and had four putts lip out on the front nine.

"They were conditions where it was easy to make a couple of bogeys in a row, so I'm happy," he said. "No bogeys — it's been a while. I hit it really good and I knew not a lot of (afternoon) guys would score in the 60s."

He gave a nod to finally having a fit body again: "I hit all the shots I told you guys I was hitting in practice back home."

But Daly's meltdown stole the headlines from Woods. Australian PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn joined a chorus of officials livid with Daly's behavior and immediately revoked his invitation to play in the Australian PGA Championship in two weeks.

"The PGA does not need this kind of behavior tarnishing the achievements of other players and the reputation of our tournaments," Thorburn said. "John is not welcome at Coolum," he added, referring to the site of that tournament.

Championship director Trevor Herden was fuming and called for strong sanctions from the U.S. and European tours.

"I'm extremely bitter and disappointed that he's treated this championship this way," Herden said. "It's becoming a bit of a habit (and is) unacceptable."

Daly's fuse was lit when he had a double bogey on the par-three ninth. He then drove into a greenside bunker on the 10th but hit the wrong ball from the sand and received a two-stroke penalty. He three-putted for a triple-bogey seven and was seeing red by the time he walked to the 11th.

His second shot on the long par five sailed right into the water, as did his next six shots. He told officials he had run out of balls as he took his card to playing partner Craig Parry, shook hands and scurried from the course.

Herden said the rules permitted Daly to ask for replacement balls, which could have been brought out to him so he could continue playing.

It took the gloss off a day that had belonged to cancer survivor Jarrod Lyle, who fired a superb seven-under 65 to lead Americans Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney by a shot.

Lyle, who lost his U.S. PGA Tour card this year, endured chemotherapy and beat leukemia in 1999. On Thursday, he carded five birdies and made an eagle on the 550-yard par-five 14th before revealing that his fiancée, Briony Harper, was pregnant.

"I've played solid all year, I just haven't achieved anything — on the course it's been really rough, but off the course it's been an awesome year," Lyle said. "I got engaged (and) I was told by the doctors fertility could be an issue. To be told Briony was pregnant made golf seem insignificant, and the bad days don't affect you at all. It feels like nothing could worry me now."

The shot of the day belonged to Adam Scott, who holed a six-iron from 218 yards on the par-five eighth for the third albatross in the past 30 years of the Australian Open. He shot three-under 69, a score matched by fellow Aussie and world No.7 Jason Day.

Fred Couples fired his "best ball-striking round of the year" to be tied for fourth at five under, but the American Presidents Cup captain joked about a quandary confronting him after his opening round. Aside from Johnson and a brilliant late stretch by Watney, the 52-year-old gave his younger American charges a beating.

"Hopefully I don't beat any of them by the end of the week," Couples joked. "I'm not just here to get ready for next week. I want to compete. It sounds stupid, but at any age I think I can still play, although it's a lot easier on the Champions Tour."

Of the eight American Presidents Cup stars in action, Johnson electrified the crowd with his sublime shotmaking, including a spectacular 175-yard bunker shot across water to set up an eagle chance — which he subsequently missed — on the 14th.

But it was his ability to play flop shots and British-style bump-and-runs from potentially awkward lies that set him apart. His round could have been even better but for a series of missed putts early in his round.

"I was a little rusty at the start (because) it was the first time I'd been in competition for five or six weeks, but I got it going pretty well," he said.

Watney was thrilled that he conquered the winds that gusted late in the afternoon, especially with five birdies in his closing six holes.

"It gusted pretty good out there," he said. "I didn't play real good last week in Shanghai, so to come out of the gate like that, I'm more than happy."

Bubba Watson unleashed some trademark mammoth drives, including one approaching 350 yards down the par-five eighth. He then hit an eight-iron approach to 12 feet and rolled in an eagle putt that revived another round of missed opportunities.

The rest of the American Presidents Cup players were less than impressive.

David Toms spent a lot of time on the practice green after his even-par 72, a score matched by Bill Haas, who missed several gilt-edged chances early in his round. Hunter Mahan, who played with Daly, had a 73 that included a triple-bogey eight on the same hole as his compatriot's implosion, while the normally consistent Matt Kuchar disappointed with a 74.

 

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