Things are a little slow in the media centre today so when it was announced that John Daly was about to give a press conference there was a mass exodus to the interview room. Hundreds of journalists from around the world were desperately hoping The Wild Thing might say something interesting.
Luckily big John didnt disappoint. He began by answering questions on his form and the injuries hes been suffering recently. Apparently his doctor advised him not to play this week as a calcified cist has recently been removed from his hand. John’s decided to ignore this guidance. According to him, this is the first time hes ever ignored advice from his doctor. Okay John, whatever you say.
Then we got to the nitty-gritty Dalys bust up with Butch Harmon. At a tournament in Tampa this year Butch made allegations about Daly getting drunk in the Hooters tent, swapping caddy mid-round and generally behaving poorly. According to Daly, who Im inclined to believe on this one, the allegations were untrue. He had gone into the Hooters Tent during a rain delay, but had been drinking diet Pepsi. He had different caddy when he returned to the course, but that was because his regular caddy had injured his neck. Daly phoned Butch (his former coach) to ask him to apologise, apparently Butch did and promised to retract his comments, but when it came to the crunch Harmon refused to say hed got it wrong.
So Daly now has absolutely no time for the Vietnam veteran and he made his feelings about Harmon very clear: He better stay as far away from me as possible. Daly said.
John was then asked about drug testing in golf. I dont care either way. He said. All theyre gonta find in me is nicotine and caffeine.
Trevor Immelman talked earlier today of another “wild thing” at Birkdale this week. He was referring to the sixth hole. Apparently it’s an absolute brute so I thought Id go and take a look.
At 499 yards its a monster of a par four, dog-legging to the right. The fact its currently playing into a force-six wind only adds to the challenge. I watched the Swedish trio of Niclas Fasth, Freddie Jacobson and Alexander Noren playing the hole. They all hit reasonable drives but all were left with fairway wood into the green. Jacobson, whod pushed his tee-shot to the right side of the fairway, very nearly killed me as he fired one over the spectator walkway towards the green – I heard the ball whistle past my right ear.
Anyway, all three seemed to strike their second shots well and I was surprised to see all three balls short when I wandered up to the green.
The green is testing as well. It slopes from back to front and the gradient is pretty severe at the front edge. I watched Freddie his a pitch that checked just short of the pin and a combination of the wind and slope caused it to roll right back to his feet. I predict this will be the hardest ranked hole come the end of the week with an average score closer to five than four.
After a couple of trips out to stroll around the course Ive decided there are positives and negatives for spectators at Birkdale:
On the plus side The natural dunes framing most of the holes provide excellent vantage points to watch the pros approaching, and playing around, the greens. There are also a good number of well-placed grandstands from which to see large swathes of this beautiful links. The course is fairly compact and its not a massive hike to get out to the far-end, nothing like St Andrews or Carnoustie for example. Finally, there seems to be an abundance of food outlets and Open Arms bars. At Carnoustie I thought there were a disappointing number of opportunities to purchase beer but there should be no such problems here.
On the downside Its very difficult to navigate around the course, you can often see where you want to get to but are unable to reach it without taking a half-mile detour. There are also some horrendous bottlenecks. The worst Ive seen so far is when youre headed back from the practice area towards the 18th across the front of the 14th green. Its only Wednesday but it took me a good five minutes to cover about 100 yards.