Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 19 News List

Daly hoping for fresh start in HK

AGENCIES , HONG KONG

Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan serves on the 18th hole during the first day of the Hong Kong Open golf tournament yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Troubled two-time Major winner John Daly said on Thursday he was hoping for a fresh start in Hong Kong and Australia after a series of injury problems and lurid off-course incidents.

Daly shook off recent woes, including a night in jail after a drinking spree last month and a dizzying rankings plunge to 788, to post two-under-par 68 in the Hong Kong Open’s first round.

The 42-year-old Californian, who has made only five cuts this year, was cruising at four-under par at the Fanling course until a pair of late bogeys spoilt his round.

“I’m not too disappointed, being a little rusty,” he said. “I haven’t played in a month so I think under par on the first round here is pretty good. I’ll take it.”

Daly relies on invitations after losing his US PGA tour card two years ago, and he was relieved just to be back playing after a spell of injury including rib surgery in August.

“I just want to play. Whatever happens, happens, but it’s just nice to play,” he said.

The 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open winner will play the Australian Masters in Melbourne next week and hopes to return to Coolum, scene of an infamous meltdown in 2002, for next month’s Australian PGA Championship.

“It’s been tough because I need to play three or four weeks in a row to get anything out of my game and I haven’t been able to do that in two years,” he said.

“The exemptions don’t come in a row, they just come one or two together with a week or two off. It never was four in a row. When I look at my past when I won the PGA [Championship] and the British [Open] and a few others, I was playing eight or nine tournaments in a row. You get in a rhythm, and I haven’t been able to do that,” he said.

DRUNK TANK

Daly created his latest sensational headlines last month when he was jailed overnight after a drinking session at a Hooters restaurant in North Carolina.

He was disqualified from the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March for missing his pro-am tee-off time, a day after splitting from celebrated swing coach Butch Harmon who accused him of preferring drinking to golf.

Last year, Daly turned up at a tournament in Memphis with scratches on his face and said his wife had attacked him with a steak knife. Sherrie Daly later said the wounds were self-inflicted to cover up a sexual assault.

The incidents have not hit the popularity of larger-than-life Daly, who enjoyed strong crowd support in Hong Kong.

“It’s great. It’s great to see the people come out and watch me play. It makes me try harder and it makes you want to play better,” he said.

He is returning to Australia six years after storming out of the 2002 Australian PGA Championship, hurling his ball and putter into a lake, after a row over a penalty drop. The putter reportedly remains on the clubhouse wall.

Taiwan’s Lin Wen-tang (林文堂) was in joint third place yesterday with a five-under par 65. Wang Ter-chang (汪德昌) shot a four-under par 66.

EXPLOSION

The Japanese men’s golf tour has beefed up security after a minor explosion shattered windows at the venue clubhouse for next week’s Casio World Open.

The JGTA Tour said yesterday it had deployed round-the-clock security at Kochi’s Kuroshio Country Club after the incident earlier this week. Nobody was hurt in the blast.

“There was a small explosion. It appears that a device of some description was deliberately left in the lobby by someone,” the Japan Golf Tour Championship’s Chieko Hataguchi said. “As a result we’ve put in 24-hour security. We are investigating the scene and security has been tightened. We are also examining what extra safety measures to take.”

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