John Daly cards 90 at Valspar Championship
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – John Daly was at it again, rinsing three shots in succession and shanking a 7-iron and Tin Cupping his way to a dirty dozen on one hole. The dreadful sequence led to a 90, his career worst on the PGA Tour, and was even louder than the combination of his bright yellow pants and screaming whitish hair.
“It was a good 12,” Daly said matter-of-factly after the Valspar Championship second round Friday. “I got up and down to do it.”
There is no good 12 in golf, of course, unless you’re talking about a par 3 at Augusta National. And there are no good 90s unless your handicap hovers around 20.
We’re talking perspective here, and so was Daly. The aptly named Wild Thing might have lost control of his ball yet again, but he didn’t lose sight of the big picture in putting his little nightmare into context. The 12, he reasoned, is nothing compared to recent disasters in our world and, on a personal level, the fact he contracted putting yips last week for the first time.
“There are a lot of things worse than one bad hole,” said the two-time major champion.
Daly, about a month shy of age 48, should know. He’s an expert on the big numbers. Remarkably, this was the 16th time on Tour he has made a 10 or worse on a hole. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Annabel Monaghan’s new novel, “Double Digit,” was about the hard-living, hard-hitting golfer who introduced “grip it and rip it” into the game’s lexicon.
Considering he has been fined for quitting during rounds and has 62 Tour scores of 80 or higher, you might be surprised that Daly said he “didn’t give up.” You might also be taken aback that he introduced current events into his blowup story. But that’s what he did. He said he was planning to fly to Indonesia for an upcoming tournament but isn’t getting on an airplane in light of the missing Malaysian aircraft and the U.S. Airways runway crash in Philadelphia.
“It doesn’t seem like planes get checked good,” Daly said. “And they’re old.”
In citing the sad state of affairs in many global corners, JD also referenced the Harlem explosion and the fatal car crash into a crowd at the SXSW (South by Southwest) music festival in Austin, Texas.
“What the hell is going on?” he said. “It’s frightening.”
Daly has the same thoughts about his putting stroke, for years a long, soft and flowing motion. But he said he got the yips, out of nowhere, on the back nine Sunday at the Puerto Rico Open. So he’s frustrated and puzzled and wants to find someone who can help.
“When you have the yips, it’s no fun,” Daly said. “They came fast and I can’t stop it. When I go to a shorter stroke, the ball goes left. On a longer stroke I come up. When you’re playing a putt to break left to right and push it 3 feet right, you look like an idiot.”
At first, caddie Peter Van Der Riet wasn’t buying when Daly told him in Puerto Rico, “I’ve got the yips.” But a few holes later the looper knew, telling the boss, “Yes, you’ve got the yips.”
The 12 can be laughed off. Involuntary motions when holding a putter cannot. The 12 is a one-off, or in Daly’s case a 16-off. These new yips, though, actually produced more startling results.
After taking 33 putts in an opening 74 at Innisbrook’s difficult Copperhead Course, Daly on Friday performed as it he had never used the flat stick before. He took 37 putts. He had a 4-putt and four three-putt greens. Over 36 holes he made but one putt longer than 4 1/2 feet.
You play hockey like that and make a 12 and you have your highest Tour score–one more than the 89 he shot at the 2008 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. Then there were bad breaks, like a buried bunker lie and a ball in a divot hole, leading him to summarize, “It was a day when nothing went right.”
Daly also has won an Open, plus a PGA Championship out of nowhere. Such highs and lows are the essence of the entertaining long hitter. He is good for golf while being good or bad.
Thrice before has he served more than a dozen. He pumped six balls into the water in making an 18 on the the par-5 sixth hole at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational. He hit one ball into a backyard and three into the Pacific Ocean en route to 14 on the par-5 18th at Pebble Beach during the 2000 U.S. Open. And he went for 13 at the 2011 John Deere Classic.
This time the scene was Copperhead’s 475-yard 16th, a par-4 dogleg right around water. He was 9 over par for the day before arriving there. Trying to cut the corner, he hit a drive that “wasn’t that bad” but found water. After moving up to a drop area behind the pond, he rinsed two 3-wood shots. After playing safely to the left, Daly shanked a 7-iron to the right of the green on his eighth shot. His ninth fell short into a bunker, his 10th went long and he chipped close from 36 feet.
So, yeah, the 12 was good in the sense it was better than 13 and society’s problems and his shaky stroke. But it was a bad 90. The round also featured three double bogeys and five bogeys and all those maddening, yipped putts that were enough to make one want to scream.
Or pull out his screaming whitish hair.