Thursday, July 15, 2010

Give Me Daly Instead Of Woods Any Day

I missed, by design, the 4:09 tee time this morning. Well, not my tee time for my golf game today (which I do not have scheduled), but 4:09 was the appointed time when Tiger Woods teed off in The 150th Open Championship, the golf tournament being played this week on the Old Course at St. Andrews Links in St. Andrews, Scotland.

When ESPN won the rights to show the 150th version of The Open Championship, the original first TV time was 5:00 a.m. eastern daylight time, but when the first round tee times came out, Tiger was in the 4:09 tee group and ESPN, with 11 hours of coverage today, decided to start at 4 or whatever time it was in Scotland at that time.

But, when I finally got around to switching on the telly, I was surprised but thrilled to see the headline around 5:30 a.m. was not Tiger but my true life golfing hero, John Daly, with apologies to Ken Venturi, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and many others. He was 6-under par when the picture on the small bedroom set came into focus and he soon added a birdie before bogeying 17 and finishing the round at 6-under, 66. Watching the highlights, he could have, should have been much better as several putts lipped out or came up inches short.

The best part was taking the spotlight away from what ESPN really wanted: Tiger Woods, who no matter how many women he’s bedded over the years and who no matter how many women today will not watch or pull for in anything and who no matter how many women do not want their husbands watching or pulling for as well, playing well, making birdies and dominating the field. Tiger Woods, with his good play and bad doings, is still the ratings driver in golf.

But Daly, to me, offers a lot more excitement except when he’s beating his wife of the day or ripping apart hotel rooms. Unless you’re one of those golfers with your nose up in the air, Daly is much easier to relate to than Woods, unless you’re married and doing a different woman at every tour stop and other places. Daly played the Old Course today with calm and excitement. He loves the course; it fits his style even with trouble all around. With any course, hit the tee shot long and straight and the Old Course, one of seven courses at the St. Andrews Links complex, will play much easier.

When Daly is on, he’s dead down the middle off the tee. He has maybe the softest hands in the game, giving him a unique grip and rip style that changes 180-degrees for his approaches, especially the short ones. But Daly makes mistakes late in holes. While Tiger used to be on, driving it straight and long, he’s also been more of a scrambler over the years, hitting tee shots all over the place but recovering with interesting approaches that result in birdie tries.

The 17th hole was a great tale of these two players. Daly hit the long straight drive and had a punch 7-iron to the green but hit the ball with the sweet spot of the club and watched as the approach rolled off the back and onto the pebble covered cart path. His recovery went past the cup and his par putt missed, giving him his only bogey of the day. Woods pulled his three-wood from the new tee on 17 and into deep, heavy rough to the left of the fairway on the dogleg right. Using his strong hands and strength, his muscled his approach to just a few feet off the front of the green and putted to about 4-feet, a makeable par attempt. But, he rushed and jerked his putt left and had to make an equally long effort for bogey. Daly messed up on his second shot; Woods got himself into position for par with his recovery second shot.

At the 18th hole, both made par, though Daly lipped a putt that should have dropped and Tiger pulled another one left of the cup. So at the end of round one, Daly was ahead of Woods by one, and neither was the tournament leader. Both understand how to play the Old Course, knowing to pitch and run and to use putter from off the green, even 60 yards off the green as Woods did a few years ago. I think I have the record for length off the green with a putter, maybe 100 yards.

From watching this morning, both players showed seriousness about their games. But, it always looks as if Tiger is the businessman in golf and Daly is enjoying his play, especially when he’s on. The scores may be similar, but I’d much rather focus the cameras more on Daly and less on Woods.

I missed that 4:09 tee time by design and what I missed was a chance to see the early holes of Daly. Tomorrow, the two tee off late. My guess is ESPN will give Woods more attention, especially if Daly fades; my guess is that by the end of the day Sunday, Woods will be in contention and Daly will be a mere mention. That’s okay. I still have my preferences when it comes to watching those two play golf. I trust it’s obvious.

(NOTE: Photo is of some of the past winners of The Open Championship.)

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