Tuesday 23 January 2018

Daly's 'passion' undimmed as 69 keeps him in Qatar mix

John Daly, pictured during the second round of the Qatar Masters, insists his passion for the sport grows each year
John Daly, pictured during the second round of the Qatar Masters, insists his passion for the sport grows each year

William S Callahan

JOHN DALY'S golf attracted as much attention yesterday in Qatar as his garish attire.

Even an outrageous pair of Sponge Bob Square Pants couldn't obscure the impressive strides the 47-year-old American has made with his game.

Daly insists his passion for the sport grows with each passing year. He certainly had plenty of fun during the first 36-holes of the Qatar Masters as he propelled himself into contention for his first victory in 10 years.

At eight-under-par following a bogey-free 69 in the second round, Daly was tied 10th, just five behind leader Rafa Cabrera-Bello and feeling good about his prospects.

"If I'd sunk a couple more putts, it'd be great, but I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing," said the two-time Major champion, whose most recent win came at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in 2004.

"I duck hooked a couple of tee shots with my driver and have been using the three-wood a lot, but if I get a stiffer shaft into the driver, it should be okay for the final two rounds."

Coincidentally, Torrey Pines is where Tiger Woods bids to become the first player to win nine first-class professional tournaments at the same venue in this weekend's Farmer's Insurance Open.

Daly believes his game has remained pretty much intact down the decades since his stunning victory as ninth alternate at the 1991 US PGA at Crooked Stick in his rookie season as a professional.

"I don't think the swing is quite as long as it used to be and I don't walk as fast as I used to, but, apart from that everything else is the same," he said in a gravelly voice which bears testament to years of hard living.

"My enthusiasm for the game has never waned, I just love it," Daly went on. "As a matter of fact, as we get older in golf, there's more passion. I love to compete, though whether I win or not, just playing well makes me feel good. All I'm trying to do is the best I can and I like the way I'm playing right now.

"My mind nowadays is more at peace with myself and that makes it a lot easier to compete.

"I can honestly walk off this golf course now knowing I gave it 100pc and to me that's all that matters.

"I feel my golf is still very competitive and, barring some injuries in the last six years, who knows what might have happened."

Cabrera-Bello grabbed the opportunity to impress Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley with both hands over the first two days in Qatar, outscoring the Dubliner by 12-shots as he posted hugely-impressive rounds of 66 and 65.

If McGinley was impressed with 29-year-old Cabrera-Bello's stirring effort, the Irishman also could take pleasure from the hard-grinding and bogey-free second-round 70 which eased him through the cut on the mark, one-under.

Just two other Irish golfers, Michael Hoey and Simon Thornton made it through to the final 36 holes.

Both were tied 23rd with Sergio Garcia and several others on six-under after Thornton shot 68 yesterday and Hoey posted a 70.

STRANGE

Shane Lowry found it "strange to be off to the airport so early in the week" after a second-round 68 left him just one outside the cut.

Quite rightly, he pointed to Wednesday's 76 as the round that "did all the damage," adding that yesterday's effort "at least is something to bring to Dubai" in next week's Desert Classic.

Though he'd four birdies on his card, Lowry failed to pick up a shot at any of Qatar's four par-fives and admitted on Twitter that the area of his game which needs most work is "the six inches between my ears."

Even more frustratingly, Damien McGrane took six at three of those long holes during yesterday's 74, including one at 18 as he too missed out by the narrowest margin.

Gareth Maybin (76, +6) and Peter Lawrie (76, +12) also get the weekend off to do some practice before Dubai.

THE QATAR MASTERS

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 9.30

THE FARMERS INSURANCE OPEN,

LIVE, SKY SPORTS 4, 8.0

Irish Independent

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