The Daly Double
The line on John Daly is that the only way he can make the Ryder Cup team is to play his way on, and he must win, place or show in next week's PGA Championship to do so. Under no circumstances will U.S. captain Lanny Wadkins burn one of his two picks on him. Why is the most popular player in golf (witness the British Open's highest TV ratings in 12 years) and the most intimidating (no one hits it farther and is therefore better suited for team play) being cast as a no-hoper for Oak Hill? It has something to do with style and everything to do with substance.
Wadkins insists Daly's game simply doesn't fit Oak Hill and that's the only reason he isn't interested. "He would be a strong pick if the course were different," Wadkins maintained last week. "Oak Hill is not a long player's golf course. It's an accuracy course. Length is not a big deal on that golf course." There's no arguing Wadkins' analysis. And he didn't even feel the need to bring up some other facts, such as that during Daly's British Open victory at St. Andrews he could drive the ball two counties over and still have a shot at the double-wide greens, or that he is ranked 182nd out of 186 in fairways hit on the PGA Tour, or that he has done next to nothing in the U.S. Open, which is being used as a measuring stick for the Oak Hill Ryder Cup.
Still, let's not let facts get in the way of the rest of the story. As Barry Lane, a member of the 1993 European Ryder Cup team, has accurately pointed out, Daly "would be frightening to play against in the Ryder Cup." The trouble is, he also scares the bejeebers out of potential teammates. Despite Daly's obvious talent and best efforts to fly right, he remains a pariah in the small world that is the PGA Tour. He has earned his reputation as a give-up artist—that's one of the reasons he didn't get a sniff in 1993, either, when Tom Watson was captain—and no one wants to see that particular piece of baggage carried into the Ryder Cup.
Daly says he has changed. He also is keen on making the Ryder Cup team (he is 16th on the points list). Last week in the Netherlands, where he finished 14 strokes behind winner Scott Hoch, he even said he would "let Lanny club me on every tee" if selected.
But that's not about to happen. Wadkins' short list is said to be down to five players—Watson, Curtis Strange, Lee Janzen, Paul Azinger and Jim Gallagher Jr.—all of whom can make the right club selections on their own. Wadkins, as this list illustrates, is a conservative sort. He's not going to take a risk on a guy like John Daly.
Listen to Wadkins. Can you hear what he's really saying when he says, "If Daly were to make it, it would be a tremendous experience for him to be around those kind of players for an extended period of time. It would be a big boost for his life and his ability to make friends. Just to see how certain guys handle themselves would be good for him. One day John Daly could make a good Ryder Cup player."
That day has not arrived.
The 62 that super senior Joe Jimenez shot in the second round of last week's Ameritech Senior Open in Aurora, Ill., bettered his age by seven years, which in addition to delighting 69-year-olds everywhere, no doubt pleased Jimenez's wife, Lydia. "The other day she said, 'How come you make a birdie and mess up on the next hole?' " Jimenez said. "Well, she can't say that about today."