BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — His long victory drought over, John Daly now faces the challenge of following up a tour win for the first time in more than 13 years.
Daly enters the Regions Tradition starting Thursday at Greystone Golf & Country Club fresh from his first PGA Tour Champions win at the Insperity Invitational . The Tradition is the first of the season’s five majors.
“It feels great. Every tour’s so hard to win on now, it just felt great to finally get one,” Daly said Wednesday. “There’s so many great players on this tour that’s been out here a while that hasn’t won. I got it a little later than I wanted, but I got one and it just built on confidence. And where we’re playing this week, this course is so great, it’s just a little tighter.”
He had some success at Greystone last year on his way to a 15th-place finish. Daly finished with a 74 after three straight rounds below par, punctuating a rocky day that included a hole where he hit a sprinkler head with a crowd-pleasing eagle on 18.
“It’s a course you can never go to sleep on,” he said. “It’s not very long, but it can get you. There are (out of bounds) on every hole right and left. If you drive the ball straight, you can score really well because the greens are perfect.”
He said the week will come down to putting, but that he feels he’s “driving the ball as good as anybody right now.”
A two-time major champion on the regular tour, Daly hopped on his cart after Wednesday’s pro-am. He told autograph-seeking fans: “I’ve got a media thing to do,” but then sped past reporters. He later spoke to a tour media official on the phone.
Daly is the 12th player to record a win on all three PGA Tour circuits.
“I was excited to see him win,” Vijay Singh said. “He’s a good friend of mine. I like John. I was just happy for him. He deserved a win, and hopefully it will lift his confidence up and make him come out here and win a few more.
“I think everybody wants to see him win.”
Even his breakthrough victory turned into a great escape since Daly closed with three straight bogeys before winning by one stroke. It was Daly’s first win on Tour since the PGA Tour’s 2004 Buick Invitational, breaking a drought of 13 years, 2 months and 22 days. It came in his 22nd start on the 50-and-over circuit.
Defending Tradition champion Bernhard Langer has had far more success at the event, including seven Top-10 finishes in eight appearances. Shooting for his eighth major title, Langer said Greystone requires a bit of everything.
“First of all, you’ve got to drive it well because if you hit it in the rough and the bunkers, you’re already playing defensive from there and you can’t be as aggressive as you would love to be,” he said. “So driving is important, and if you drive it in the fairway, then you have some chances to attack the pins. But there’s a lot of trouble out here, a lot of water, there’s lots of bunkers, certainly trees and very undulated greens. So if you hit it in the wrong place, you’re going to see some three-putts.”
Singh, who won the Legends of Golf with Carlos Franco, is coming off a tie for 16th in The Players Championship. He is still seeking his first individual title on the 50-and-over circuit.
“When you win, it’s always a boost to your confidence,” Singh said. “I feel like any time you win, no matter where you win, it gives you confidence, and that’s what it did to me.”