PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — John Daly’s official 2007 season comes to a close Sunday, a week earlier than he originally planned.
He can’t wait for it to end.
It was another turbulent and trying year for the ever-popular Daly, a two-time major champion who remains one of the PGA Tour’s biggest draws. But that wasn’t enough to get him a sponsor’s exemption into next week’s season finale at Disney – the first time he’s made such a request and been denied.
Daly wasn’t angry, just disappointed.
“I’m kind of shocked. Wal-Mart’s the title sponsor and it’s a great charity they’ve got and I was kind of shocked I didn’t get the exemption,” said Daly, a native of Arkansas, where Wal-Mart is based. “A lot of guys live in Orlando and some guys are probably closer than I am to keeping their card, so it’s probably a smart thing.”
Instead of Daly, sponsor exemptions for next week’s Children’s Miracle Network Classic at the Disney courses near Orlando went to Lee Janzen, Duffy Waldorf, Jay Williamson and Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old from Hawaii who turned pro earlier this year.
Daly made the cut this week at the Ginn sur Mer Classic, making birdie on his final hole of the second round Saturday morning to get to 2 under.
Without that birdie, his season would have ended right there.
“Feels good,” Daly said.
This was only the ninth cut Daly made in 24 events this season; he missed 10 and withdrew from five other events primarily because of injuries, including a shoulder that came out of socket mid-swing when a fan snapped his photo during a tee shot at the Honda Classic.
As such, Daly will need more sponsor’s exemptions next year.
He entered this week with $248,501 in earnings, good for only 182nd on the seasonlong money list, far below the level he needed to have full playing privileges.
“I’m looking so forward for it to being over,” Daly said. “The last two years have been horrible. This year has just been the injuries, but when I did play I was so close to playing good, shooting even, 1 over, 2 over. I’ve missed so many cuts by a shot or two … it could have gone either way eight or nine times this year.”
But it didn’t.
So went a bizarre year, even by Daly’s standards.
He led the British Open for a few minutes, only to miss the cut. His face was marked up after an alleged steak-knife spat with his wife during the spring; they subsequently reconciled. He had a second-round 87 at the Wachovia Championship, a day where he was actually 1 under through seven holes and played the final 11 in a hacker-esque 16 over.
He hasn’t placed higher than 16th in any event, and somehow has only one win since the 1995 British Open.
Yet there still were good moments, the ones that give Daly reason for optimism.
Daly shot 63 in the second round of the Frys.com Open, plus put together four rounds in the 60s at the Buick Open – cheered on in the final round by rock-rap-country performer Kid Rock, Daly’s host that week. He can still grip-it-and-rip-it as well as anyone; he ranks second this year on tour in driving distance, a smidge behind Bubba Watson.
And his second-round 69 at the Ginn was his third under-70 score in his last seven rounds, which he found encouraging.
“I’m close,” Daly said after the second round. “I kind of wish I had about four or five tournaments left, to tell you the truth.”
He might have changed his tune after the third round.
Daly started on the back nine Saturday afternoon and took a quadruple bogey – his third of the year – on the par-5 11th after four-putting. He was at 1 over for the tournament through 14 holes when third-round play was suspended by darkness.
He’ll have a few chances to play unofficial events before the 2008 campaign begins. Daly plans to play the Shark Shootout with Fred Couples, and probably will draw invites to a couple other places, where fans will be thrilled to have him around.
Daly hopes he can find a way to give them scores to enjoy, too.
“I tell you what,” Daly said. “It’s better than not having anybody rooting for you. I mean, they motivate me like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s a great thing. It really is.”