John Daly has disappointing finish at Bay Hill

John Daly has disappointing finish at Bay Hill


John Daly has disappointing finish at Bay Hill

John Daly was steadily climbing the leaderboard at the Bay Hill Invitational Sunday, a solid closing round well in his grasp, a berth at the Masters April 8-11 in his sights. Daly, who entered the week No. 63 in the Official World Golf Ranking – needing to get into the top 50 by March 29 – stood alone in third place at 11 under par as he strode to the 15th tee.

But his final four holes would be a roller-coaster ride that would make the nearby Orlando theme parks envious. He hit a driver out-of-bounds right at the par-4 15th and made double bogey; recovered with an eagle-3 at the 517-yard 16th; then finished bogey-triple bogey, his status on the board sinking along with his golf ball in the famed Devil’s Bathtub fronting the 18th green.

“One of these years I’m going to finish strong on this golf course,” said Daly, who in 1998 shot a closing 85 that included an 18 at the par-5 sixth. Daly, who only moved to 53 in the ranking, still could make the Masters field if he’s in the top 10 in earnings through The Players Championship. He currently is ninth ($1,269,646). Had he finished 11 under, he’d have moved to seventh.

Daly isn’t the only Masters veteran who could be on the outside looking in at Augusta National. Among the players who have had more than 10 starts there who are not in: Paul Azinger, Mark Calcavecchia, Scott Hoch, Lee Janzen, Tom Lehman and Hal Sutton. At this point there are three ways to get in: win The Players Championship, finish top 10 in money through Players or finish inside the top 50 in the World Ranking through Players.

Ryder Cupper Phillip Price, No. 54 in the world, needed a good finish at Bay Hill to get into TPC. But his tie for 62nd wasn’t good enough, and sent him back home to Wales. He’s now ranked 59th. “I am going to go back and the weather is going to be awful for two weeks,” said Price.

Loren Roberts started last week on the bubble at No. 50 and tied for 46th at Bay Hill. He was passed by Colin Montgomerie, who won in Singapore. Roberts would have been in the Masters had he finished top 50 in the world through the end of 2003, but he fell from 47th to 51st late in the year.

“I went back (to 48th) the first week of January and I didn’t even hit a shot,” Roberts said. “Quite honestly I’m not thinking about this top 50 stuff at all. You know, I’m 48 years old. If I get in, it’s great. If I don’t, so what. . . . I love being there, I love the atmosphere, I just love being at Augusta – it’s probably the best week of the year for me. But I am not going to lose sleep over worrying about trying to get in the top 50 to get there.”

Roberts may sleep easier, as he moved up to No. 48 in the rankings with one week to go.

Daly couldn’t help but be upset with his finish at Bay Hill, though he also took a lot of positives from his week. In 11 previous starts at Bay Hill, he never had finished in the top 10. He also was proud of the way he battled back all week. Before his triple at the 72nd hole, he incurred four doubles on the week, and rebounded three of the four times with birdie or eagle.

“There’s not too many guys who have five double bogeys (four doubles and a triple) and still finish in the top 10,” he said. “I’m setting records everywhere. At least I know I’m making a lot of birdies and I’m doing good on the bounce back. It’s something that I haven’t done in the past.”

He hopes to finish high enough in the Players (where he has never finished better than 16th) to keep his spot in the top 10 in money, or move into the top 50 in the ranking. If he doesn’t, he’ll have a week off, as many other talented players will.

“I will go to Disneyland,” joked Englishman Lee Westwood, who won twice in Europe last season but departed Bay Hill with plans to take four weeks off. “I think that is just what I need. I will play a bit of golf, just not play competitively, and I will do a lot of playing with my family.”


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