Tiger, Phil & Big John Daly, Back at Torrey Pines

by Jeff Skinner

It was a picture perfect, postcard, chamber of commerce day in San Diego yesterday as the PGA Tour roamed the courses of Torrey Pines.  The Farmers insurance Open usually gets a lot of buzz because it marks the season debut of the two most popular players in the world.  Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played their much anticipated first PGA Tour rounds of the year and neither disappointed.  Tiger posted a respectable three under 69 on the North Course and was happy with the way he played.  Phil shot a five under 67 on the more difficult South Course for the low score of the day on the South.

Phil and Tiger are not only the most popular golfers in the world but they are also storylines 1 and 1A in the golf world.  Pick which is more compelling: Tiger coming back from the most embarrassing, self destructive year in sport or Phil, looking to add to his major title count after a year full of emotional trials as his wife and mom deal with breast cancer and he was diagnosed with arthritis.  Both are significant back stories in golf this season and having them play well here is great for the tour.  We’ll see if they can keep it up and make some new memories on a course they both love so much.

To me the most intriguing score of the day was posted by Big John Daly.  Daly tied for low round of the day on the South Course, which plays two shots tougher than the north, when he shot five under 67.  Daly in the mix can only mean a bit more excitement at The Farmers; hopefully it will be on the course.  Last year Daly had an emotional meltdown while playing here and actually told his “Being John Daly” Golf Channel producers that he was done, quitting the game.  His 2010 season was full of ups and downs and left him frustrated and still looking for a way to get into tournaments.

As usual Daly can’t go anywhere without shooting himself in the foot and then shoving that foot in his mouth.  After his round yesterday he lit into two tournaments that denied him exemptions.

“I’ll tell you this: I’ll never go back to the Hope and I’ll never go back to Phoenix, no matter what happens.”

“I won’t even send letters anymore [asking for an exemption]. I’m not saying that to diss the tournaments. I’m just saying that if you look at my past, everything the Thunderbirds [who put on the Phoenix event] have ever wanted me to do for 20 – well, 17, 16 years I’m sure I did it for them.

“I helped get celebrities go to the Hope. I helped them out. I went to their parties and did everything for them. That is the kind of stuff that we all want our young players to do out here to help the tournaments, and I felt like I did my part. It hurt me for those two tournaments not to give me spots. So I’ll go to Europe on those weeks.”

If Daly can learn to keep his mouth shut and find a bit of consistency and put four solid rounds together he could once again threaten the leaders.  Torrey Pines was the scene of Daly’s last win in 2004.  The two time major champion has been a walking reality show (literally) but still thinks he has some game left.  After yesterday’s round, he may just be right.


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