John Daly has been a fan favorite since he won the PGA Championship in 1991. Count Tiger Woods among the many admirers of Long John, who posted a 4-under 68 in Thursday’s opening round of this year's version of the PGA Tour's final major of the season.
“When I came on Tour, he was great,” Woods told reporters after scoring a 69 in his up-and-down first round. “We had lunch, we played practice rounds. He's always been great to me over the years. I have always rooted for him. I have always been a John Daly fan and a friend.”
Woods recalled that the friendship between the two began 23 years ago in Texarkana, Arkansas. Indeed, Tiger, who has an eidetic memory when it comes to all things golf, remembered Daly using a Ping 4- or 5-iron to blast a ProMax golf ball out of bounds on uphill, down-grain par-5.
“He hit it solid right in the middle of the green. I've never seen anybody hit the ball that hard,” Woods said. “A flush shot, granted, it's a little balata base, but still, not too often you hit a 4‑iron or 5‑iron and [he] went right in the middle of the green and took it out of play, roped.”
As for his most recent round, Daly said he had been building up to a strong performance for much of the season.
“I played solid in Canada except for one hole,” Daly said of his T48 finish at last month’s Canadian Open. “Qatar [at February’s Qatar Masters] I finished in fourth, just gave me a little bit of confidence.
“Like I said, when I get on a run, six, seven, eight weeks in a row, I feel like I have a better chance at playing well,” he added. “It's starting to pay off a little bit, but that's if you're making cuts. I always believe when you're making cuts, it gives you a chance to get some confidence in your game. So I'm getting a lot of confidence, but I'm just hitting the ball solid.”
Daly, who plays frequently on the European Tour but hoped to get his PGA Tour card back, started the week at No. 149 on the money list. He must jump to within the top 125 to achieve his objective.
“My goal would be to be back on our tour, no doubt,” said Daly.