Tuesday, May 22, 2018

John Daly familiar with Tampa Bay Championship course

PALM HARBOR — Fresh off a tie for 50th at the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday, crowd favorite John Daly was on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course on Monday for the Chi Chi Rodriguez Pro Am. A Clearwater resident who is playing on a sponsor's exemption, Daly is the unofficial host of this week's Tampa Bay Championship.

He is a member at Belleair Country Club but plays the Copperhead several times a year.

"It's a weird golf course in a way that's great," Daly said. "It gives you a chance to be aggressive, but it's very penal if you don't hit the fairways. There's a few holes you can take advantage of, but not many. The smarter you are off the tee, the better you will score. You shoot 2 or 3 under par out there every day and you can win."

The only time Daly, 46, won at Innisbrook was 1999 when he teamed with Laura Davies to win the JCPenney Classic. Since it became a PGA event in 2000, Daly's best finish in 10 appearances was last year, when he tied for 51st.

The last time he won any event was the 2004 Buick Invitational. But crowds still gather to see Daly hit it a mile in his colorful attire, chain smoking and chatting with the gallery the whole way around.

Daly says he's not in tournaments just to be a side show. He thinks there are some wins left.

"When you get a little older you doubt yourself a little bit, but I still feel like I can win," Daly said. "I wouldn't still be trying to play if I didn't think I could win. I've always said that I don't win a lot of golf tournaments, but when I do it sure is sweet. It might be eight or nine years apart, but it sure is gratifying. I'd love to win two or three a year like Tiger (Woods) did for a while, but I feel that every time I tee it up, John Daly can win. That's why I keep going along."

A major would be nice: Luke Donald knows he can win. He has done it five times on the PGA Tour, including last year's Transitions Championship at Innisbrook. What Donald, 35, hasn't done is win a major.

With the Masters looming in three weeks, Donald is trying to tweak his game before Augusta.

"I need to do a better job of competing and having chances to win majors," Donald said. "That part of my resume is lacking."

Past champs return: There have been 10 different winners of the tournament since 2000. Eight return for the 2013 event: Donald (2012), Gary Woodland (2011), Jim Furyk (2010), Retief Goosen (2009, '03), Sean O'Hair (2008), K.J. Choi (2006, '02), Carl Petterson (2005) and Vijay Singh (2004). John Huston (2000) and Mark Calcavecchia (2007) are the only past champions not in the tournament.

MONDAY QUALIFIERS: Pasco County's Tim Petrovic and David Branshaw shot 66 to qualify for the tournament. Andy Pope shot 67 and survived a playoff to grab the third spot.

Today: There are no official events set for today. Professional practice rounds will be played throughout the day. Admission is free.