Daly stars in Spain

Daly stars in Spain

The player ranked 788th in the world – sandwiched between those household names Tyrone Mordt and Bret Guetz – finds himself the centre of attention at the Spanish Open, which starts tomorrow.

Last seen selling his own merchandise across the road from where The Masters was taking place, American John Daly plays his first tournament of the year at PGA Golf de Catalunya near Girona.

Given a six-month US Tour suspension late last season following the latest of a long line of controversial incidents – many of them drink-related – Daly has used the time off to have lap-band stomach surgery and now feels ready for yet another bid to relaunch his career.

The former Open champion, 43 yesterday, said on his website that the operation in February “was the best decision I ever made for my health”.

He added: “I am close to being down 50 pounds and eating better.”

His last event was the Australian Open in December. He missed the cut, as he had the two previous weeks there, but still hit the headlines.

That was for grabbing a spectator’s camera and smashing it into a tree. “You want it back, I’ll buy you a new one,” he told the fan, whom he accused of being “six inches away from my face” as he looked to take a drop.

Daly has not held a full US Tour card since 2006 and a year ago coach Butch Harmon said he was not working with him anymore because “the most important thing in his life is getting drunk”.

Rick Smith, who used to be Phil Mickelson’s coach, is now with Daly and there has been a change in his personal life too.

Married four times, Daly described it as “refreshing to have a positive coach along with a girlfriend to keep on motivating me and keeping a positive outlook on life”.

So positive is his outlook that he believes he will be back in The Masters next April rather than sitting outside.

Colin Montgomerie is hoping to return to Augusta then as well. His decline has not been as big or as dramatic as Daly’s, but Europe’s Ryder Cup captain is now 160th in the world and without a top-10 finish since he was runner-up in the French Open last June.

Montgomerie is a late addition to the field – and needed a sponsor’s invite just like Daly – after suffering a hand problem and returning home earlier than planned from Asia.

Favourite for a title won in Seville last year by Ireland’s Peter Lawrie is home hope Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano – second in his last three starts, including two play-off defeats.

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