PGA Championship spotlight is on Tiger Woods’ momentum and John Daly’s wheels

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. —John Daly was a sight to behold Wednesday, rolling around Bethpage Black —a course that traditionally doesn’t allow carts —with his green-swirled surfing shorts, a cigarette dangling from his lips and his platinum mullet glistening in the sun.

“Let’s go, Johnnie!” rang the encouraging shouts from the gallery, cheers for an unvarnished man of the people knocking his way around a brutal, undulating, 7,426-yard public course.

This could be a weird PGA Championship.

One month removed from the most dramatic Masters in memory, the spotlight swings to Long Island, where two of the most talked-about competitors are someone who got the most out of his talents —recently, that is —and someone who’s gotten the least.

The golf world is waiting to see if 43-year-old Tiger Woods can follow his victory at Augusta National with another major championship at Bethpage, where he won the U.S. Open in 2002. Depending on the oddsmaker, he’s either the favorite or close to it, even though it would be stunning for him to assemble back-to-back major victories after an 11-year drought.

And then there’s Daly, who has two major wins and one bum knee. He was granted a waiver to use a cart in the tournament because of arthritis in his right knee. That’s controversial because a lot of his problems were brought on by excessive weight and hard living.

“I can’t walk but six or seven holes,” Daly told the Los Angeles Times last month. “It’s osteoarthritis. Just had the meniscus cut out. … I’m going to get a cart for the PGA Championship, and I’ll hopefully get one for the British because I hate to miss it. But if I walk six holes, this (knee) will swell up like a grapefruit.”

Woods, who seldom takes a jab at anyone, made his feelings clear this week when asked at a news conference about Daly’s use of a cart.

“As far as J.D. taking a cart,” he said, “well, I walked with a broken leg, so …”

The last competitor allowed to use a cart in a major was Casey Martin, now the golf coach at the University of Oregon. He was born with a circulatory disorder that nearly cost him his leg. He was permitted to compete in two U.S. Opens, in 1998 and 2012, while riding in a cart.

He recently came out in support of Daly, telling Golf.com: “I’m happy for him because I know John a little bit and I know for certain that he’s not trying to get an advantage.”

Woods made the most of his abilities in winning the latest Masters, in that he’s had to rely on strategy over power in the wake of four back surgeries. Then again, he went through a long stretch when his game and personal life were circling the drain, so he and Daly are hardly polar opposites.

Regardless, Woods winning the Masters has breathed new life into golf, just as moving the PGA from August to May has allowed the sport to capitalize on that Augusta momentum and intrigue.

Daly, 53, is an interesting sideshow, but not a serious contender. He hasn’t won since the Buick Invitational in 2004, and in his last 11 PGA Championship starts, he has failed to make the cut eight times and withdrawn twice. Merely making the cut would be miraculous.

Still, he’s unquestionably a fan favorite and was swarmed by supporters every time he drove, slowly, from hole to hole. He signed hats and pin flags, and posed for selfies.

“There’s nothing like it,” spectator Jeff Zwiebel said. “I’ve got pictures of a par-3 where he high-fived a little kid and signed a ball. He’s great for golf.”

Like the shifting skies above the course that are supposed to produce rain Thursday, this field is cloudy and unpredictable.

Brooks Koepka has won three of his last seven majors, and last month finished a shot behind Woods at the Masters. He’s a big hitter, which fits Bethpage well.

For the third year in a row, Dustin Johnson comes into the PGA at No. 1 in the world rankings. He has just one major victory, however, in the 2016 U.S. Open. He, too, crushes the ball off the tee.

“I really like this course, especially if you’re hitting it well,” Johnson said. “For me, it’s all about driving. The fairways are generous in some spots. Some holes are narrow. But you’ve got to hit the fairways here; the rough is pretty penal. It’s not super deep, but it’s really thick. You’ve got to drive it straight.”

Jordan Spieth needs only the PGA to complete a career grand slam —wins in all four majors —but he has been struggling lately. His best finish this year was a tie for 21st in the Masters, and that was after shooting a wobbly 75 in the opening round.

“I’ve shot some low rounds, but piecing together four has been difficult this season so far,” he said. “But it’s gotten more progressively consistent throughout the year, and out here, you’re going to need that kind of consistency.”

Driving will be key for everyone, whether the golfers have a club in their hands, or —in Daly’s case —a steering wheel.

Just Posted

Red Deerians shop for exotic plants at spring plant sale

Exotic plants are popular at the Red Deer & District Garden Club’s… Continue reading

Central Albertans come together to end MS

Red Deer’s Bre Fitzpatrick has MS. The medication the 34-year-old is on… Continue reading

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

HIGH LEVEL, Alta. — Crews battling an enormous wildfire just outside the… Continue reading

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

OTTAWA — While most Canadians firmly back the Charter of Rights and… Continue reading

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

WATCH: Cars, airplanes, motorcyles on display at Red Deer Airport

Cars, motorcycle and airplane enthusiasts united at the Red Deer Airport Sunday… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Bid to get D-Day beaches added to list of UN World Heritage Sites in limbo

OTTAWA — The beaches of Normandy, where the Allies stormed ashore to… Continue reading

Could this 20-year-old Montreal polyglot be Canada’s most multilingual student?

MONTREAL — Georges Awaad answers the phone with a polite “Hello,” but… Continue reading

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

OTTAWA — The federal Liberals have laid out their proposal for rules… Continue reading

Trump’s trophy day of sumo, golf and cheeseburgers in Japan

TOKYO — President Donald Trump presented a special U.S.-made trophy to the… Continue reading

Two dead, one seriously injured, following explosion in Calgary home’s garage

CALGARY — Police in Calgary say they believe a house fire where… Continue reading

Raptors fans spill onto the streets ahead of potentially historic game

Cars honked, exhilarated fans chanted and long lines formed outside bars and… Continue reading

Most Read