Daly still harbours Major hopes

John Daly still wants to be part of golf’s biggest events – but, as far as he is concerned, this week’s Players Championship in Florida is not one of them.

Daly now languishes at 609th in the world and is at the Italian Open rather than at Sawgrass.

But when asked if his presence in Milan brought it home to him how far he has fallen, the 42-year-old American said: “If it was a major tournament, maybe so.

“But the Players Championship isn’t anywhere near a major and I’ve never played well at Sawgrass, so it doesn’t really bother me too much.

“It’s not a golf course that suits my game.”

Indeed, the biggest headlines Daly received in all his years playing there did not involve any leaderboards.

He and Mark Calcavecchia were fined for playing too quickly in 1992 – they were first out in the last round and shot 80 and 81 respectively – and then several years later he was alleged to have trashed a hotel room.

This week’s Italian Open, though, brings back happier memories for Daly because also in the field is 51-year-old Costantino Rocca.

At St Andrews 13 years ago they tied for The Open, Rocca producing that unforgettable 60-foot closing putt through the Valley of Sin after fluffing a chip with his previous shot.

Daly won the subsequent four-hole play-off but, far from sliding into obscurity, Rocca captured Europe’s PGA Championship at Wentworth the following May and in 1997 even more famously beat Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

The organisers of this week’s tournament appeared to have missed a trick by not pairing them together for the first two rounds, Daly playing in his first Italian Open since 1992 and Rocca, now a member of the European Senior Tour, also accepting a sponsor’s invitation.

Daly was worried most about his putting last week before he missed the cut in the Spanish Open – he is over in Europe only for these two weeks – but now it is his driving.

“I’m not sure if the face of my driver caved in last week because the ball was going way out to the left, so I ended up using my three-wood for most of the second round.

“I’ve got a new one now, but I don’t feel as comfortable with it. I go through about two drivers a month – they’re so thin.

“That’s the price you pay because they’re so hot. They don’t last as long as I’d like them to.”

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