PALM HARBOR — John Daly believes he's a swing or two away from being competitive again. But those swings have been the difference between making and missing cuts.
Daly, 44, has made one cut in five tournaments this year. In last week's Puerto Rico Open, he missed the cut by one shot. But Daly is upbeat about his game before this week's Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.
He has lost 131 pounds and now weighs a svelte 187. It has taken time to adjust his swing to the new body type, but he swears he's close.
"The hard work has to pay off sooner or later," Daly said. "I just can't keep going this bad. I'm close to being really good. Every week, I'm seeing so much more improvement. I think I'm used to the body change. It's just one or two bad swings. That's the way the whole year has gone so far.
"I'd play 15, 16, maybe 17 good holes and then a swing comes out of hell. A big ol' duck hook about 40 yards left. It comes out of nowhere. I don't know if it's focus or what. I mean, I'm making a ton of birdies."
Daly, who moved to Clearwater's Island Estates more than a year ago, has cashed one check this year, $12,006 for a tie for 65th at the Farmer's Insurance Open. He is in the Transitions Championship on a sponsor's exemption. He played with Rays pitcher David Price in Monday's celebrity pro-am.
Daly said he hopes to play in 20 events this year as he did last year. He is not qualified for next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, but he hopes to get into the Houston tournament in two weeks. And he plans on selling merchandise in Augusta, Ga., during Masters week in early April.
As for his game, he hopes the golf gods will start smiling on him again.
"Maybe they're still mad at me, I don't know," he said.
Don't bet on Austin: Former Tampa resident Woody Austin grew up playing at Babe Zaharias Golf Course. He has three PGA Tour victories and earned millions. But here's what he thinks his chances are of competing this week.
"Zero," he said. "Pretty much zero. This golf course is tough, but I couldn't play Babe Zaharias right now."
Austin, playing on a sponsor's exemption, blames part of his poor play on living in Kansas. He said the weather has limited his play, and he has to adjust his swing to the constant winds.
"I'm going through a big transition in my swing, and it's just terrible," Austin said. "I wasn't doing my due diligence and paying attention to my ball positioning. Playing in that Kansas wind every day, my ball positioning got so far behind me that my golf swing is really bad now."
Huston in: Palm Harbor's John Huston, the 2000 tournament champion, joined the field. Huston earned a sponsor's exemption spot when Alvaro Quiros withdrew after an injury during Sunday's final round of the WGC Cadillac Championship in Doral. Now every past champion of the Transitions Championship is in the field. This is his third event this season, and he has not made a cut. Huston turns 50 on June 1 and plans to join the Champions Tour.
Monday qualifiers: Tampa resident Travis Hampshire shot 66 to lead all Monday qualifiers at Innisbrook's Island Course. Russell Knox, Jason Kokrak and Will Claxton also qualified with 67s.
Pro-am winners: The team of professional Daniel Summerhays, Bucs player Ronde Barber and amateurs Brian Hauser, Al Villavecchia and Lance Anderson won the celebrity pro-am with a net score of 13-under 58.
Today: Players' practice rounds are scheduled. Most of the field will be in town by today. The best viewing will be around the practice green and the driving range.