x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Daly fails to make the grade

The American misses out on qualifying spot, but the maverick player struggles to adapt to faster greens on his return from PGA Tour suspension.

TENNESSEE // John Daly, competing in America for the first time since the PGA Tour lifted his six-month suspension, missed out on qualifying for the US Open. Daly managed only four birdies over 36 holes of a qualifier on Monday and his one-over 143 did not come close to getting one of 13 spots available at Tennessee.

Daly, who has been awarded a sponsor's exemption for the St Jude Classic, which starts tomorrow, took one positive out of two mediocre rounds at Ridgeway (70) and Germantown (73). At least it helped him make the transition from playing in Europe. "Being over there for five weeks, the greens are so much slower there and I wasn't used to the speed," he said. "I haven't putted on Bermuda greens in a long time. Boy, talk about not even sniffing a putt."

He will have to change his clothes when he gets back on the PGA Tour, though. One of the charms of US Open qualifying is that players are allowed to wear shorts. Known for his colourful attire, the maverick Daly stood, wearing a blue-and-white check shorts. But he looked slimmer than he has in years after a stomach surgery in February that limits his appetite. Daly said he weighed 99 kilos when he checked on Sunday.

The 13 qualifiers included JP Hayes, JJ Henry, and Casey Wittenberg, a former US amateur finalist. Greg Kraft earned the final spot in a six-for-one play-off, getting through on the second extra hole. The Tennessee sectional had mostly PGA Tour players, with an even larger field in Columbus, Ohio, for those who played the Memorial. Among those qualifying were David Duval, amateur Rickie Fowler and Tom Lehman, 50, who once played in the final group in the US Open for four years in a row.

Davis Love III, who moved up to No 45 in the world a week too late, failed to qualify. Also missing out at Ohio was the US amateur champion Danny Lee, who turned down his spot at Bethpage by turning professional. Daly attracted a crowd of nearly 300 people waiting for something to cheer. There were no big numbers, except for a double bogey when his tee shot sliced on to the road, and there were not enough birdies.

The US Open will be held from June 18 to21 at Bethpage Black, a public course where Tiger Woods was the only player to break par when it was held there seven years ago. Daly said, "I love Bethpage. It's the ultimate major course. It's fair. It's so hard, they really can't make it any harder." * AP