Look out, Oakland Hills. John Daly is coming armed and possibly dangerous. In the past Daly has complained that the Open takes his best weapon, the driver, out of his hands. While that no doubt will happen again this year, Daly thinks he has found a club—the Wilson Staff Midsize-RM Zero iron—that will allow him to combine the accuracy needed to hit narrow fairways with most of the distance that gives him such a big advantage. He used the club for the first time last week in the Kemper Open and finished tied for 10th, his best performance in the U.S. since winning the BellSouth Classic in April 1994.
Daly used the driving iron on the longer par-4s at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md., laying up short of fairway bunkers and staying out of the rough that frequently swallows his 300-yard drives. He can get nearly 300 yards out of the Zero, which is plenty of distance considering that he can hit a seven-iron 190 yards. "I love the Zero off the tee," Daly says. "It helps on some of the tight par-5s that we play, especially at TPC courses. We've got a lot of real thread-the-needle par-5s. And at holes like the 13th at Augusta, I can just pull that out and whip it around the corner. I can't wait to break it out at Oakland Hills."
Wilson's Zero, which has 12 degrees of loft (a normal one-iron has 17 or 18 degrees), is not the first on the market. Tommy Armour Golf made one about four years ago for Davis Love III. For long hitters such as those two, a club like the Zero fills a gap. Daly, for example, has never had adequate distance control with a three-wood, and his one-iron wasn't long enough to serve as a bridge between his driver and his two-iron, which he used frequently. "It's something I've needed," Daly says. "I think I've found an iron where I will never have to hit another three-wood."
Daly experimented with a makeshift Zero (he delofted his one-iron) at the Shell Houston Open, then called Mike Boylan, Wilson's vice president of Tour promotion, to see if the company could make one. Within two weeks club designer Bob Mandralla had the Zero in Daly's bag. When Daly raved about the club before the Kemper, the Wilson switchboard started lighting up. By last Friday, Wilson claimed that more than 1,000 orders had been placed for the Zero.
"It was John's idea," Boylan says. He said, 'Put my name on it and we'll sell thousands of them.' I usually tell him not to give up his day job, but this time I guess he was right."
By trying to find out which way was north, Annika Sorenstam almost took the JCPenney/ LPGA Skins Game south.
Playing in her first Skins Game, along with Dottie Pepper, Laura Davies and Beth Daniel, Sorenstam got into trouble on the very first hole last Saturday at Stone-briar Country Club in Frisco, Texas, by asking David Esch, her fianc�-caddie, to use a compass to help her determine which way the wind was blowing. That's a breach of Rule 14-3 (using an artificial device), and one of the other caddies reported the infraction after Sorenstam and Pepper birdied to halve the hole.
Under normal circumstances such a transgression would result in a disqualification, but the Skins Game is not normal. In fact some say it is not even golf, a position that was strengthened after LPGA assistant director of tournament operations Barbara Trammell went digging into the Rules of Golf and found an out to keep Sorenstam in. Under a loose interpretation of Rule 34-3, Trammell determined that the rules committee is allowed to modify the penalty in exceptional circumstances. Losing one quarter of the field, not to mention a box-office attraction like Sorenstam, apparently met that criterion.
"I know you can't use lasers or anything like that," Sorenstam said, "but a compass? North will always be north. It will never change."