Wild Thing hoping length does matter

The longest course in major history – 7,514 yards, no less – has been prepared for this week’s USPGA Championship. It is called Whistling Straits and it should have John Daly licking his lips.

The longest course in major history – 7,514 yards, no less – has been prepared for this week’s USPGA Championship. It is called Whistling Straits and it should have John Daly licking his lips.

The course on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and nobody will be happier about its length than the re-born former British Open champion.

Still one of golf’s biggest hitters at the age of 38, Daly knows there might never be a better chance for him to win the third major title of his colourful and controversial career.

Not only that, it gives him a golden opportunity to lay down a claim to the Ryder Cup debut he craves so much and which has been denied him in the past. This is the final qualifying event for the American team.

In 1991 then captain Dave Stockton did not feel he could call up Daly on the back of his amazing PGA victory at Crooked Stick.

Originally the ninth reserve for the event, Daly produced one of sport’s great shocks in what was his first season on the US Tour, but the following day Stockton named Ray Floyd and Chip Beck as his two wild cards.

Four years later Daly triumphed at St Andrews and so was a major champion again, but with his personal life as eventful and unpredictable as his golf Lanny Wadkins once again overlooked him and picked Fred Couples and Curtis Strange instead.

The self-proclaimed “Wild Thing” disappeared into the wilderness after that, but three years ago he came to Europe and won the BMW International in Munich and then this February he had his first US Tour victory for nine years – since the British Open, in fact – when he beat England’s Luke Donald in a play-off.

It was no fluke success. Daly has followed with four more top-10 finishes and on his last start in the Buick Open two weeks ago he pushed Tiger Woods into third place and just failed to catch Vijay Singh.

Now the same three players have been paired together for the opening two rounds this week and current American captain Hal Sutton will be among those watching closely to see if Daly can shine again in such company.

As he thinks about his own wild card options, though, Sutton is bound to have pondered whether he should take the risk on Daly – whatever his form.

And it would be a risk. Not simply because Oakland Hills in Detroit is a far cry from Whistling Straits and calls for somebody to drive the ball straighter than Daly manages on a regular basis – not that Woods excels in that department - but also because Daly is the type of character to stir up the crowd to a level which will revive memories of Boston five years ago.

The heckling of Colin Montgomerie and the general bear-pit atmosphere prompted a re-think of where the Ryder Cup was going and after all the efforts at The Belfry to restore decorum the return of the match to American soil is a vital time in the event’s history.

Europe’s contingent, meanwhile, continue their search for a first major title since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open.

It is not yet do-or-die for some in their Ryder Cup campaign. Next week’s NEC World Championship in Ohio will decide five of Bernhard Langer’s side and then the BMW International in Germany will complete the line-up.

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