Just getting to 50 has been enough to excite the self-confessed hard-living John Daly, but now the American known universally as ‘Wild Thing’ hopes to celebrate reaching that milestone by winning the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Carnoustie.
Daly completed his first event as a senior golfer yesterday (Sunday) by finishing tied for 17th in the Insperity Invitational in Texas, the launch pad for his bid to add the Senior Open title to The Open Championship he captured on the other side of the River Tay at St Andrews in 1995.
The irrepressible Daly has confirmed he will be competing in the Senior Open at Carnoustie from July 21-24, and after kicking his heels impatiently while waiting to reach his 50th birthday, he now can’t wait to get back to Scotland to pursue his career as a senior.
“I’m really excited to make it to 50 and to have a home where I can play,” said Daly. “It’s been pretty tough those last few years, not knowing where I’m going to play and waiting by the phone for exemptions and so on. Now I have a category that means I can play for a few years out here and get a schedule which allows me to play a lot of golf. It’s going to be good for me.”
A popular figure with spectators around the world, and an unmissable character in his gaudy outfits, Daly is gearing up for a big tilt at adding the Senior Open to the Claret Jug he claimed in a play-off with Italy’s Costantino Rocca.
“It would be wonderful,” he enthused. “We’re going back to Royal Troon for The Open then on to the Senior Open at Carnoustie. I’m looking forward to it. Links golf is probably my favourite and to have two weeks of it? Hey, I’m all for it. I love it.”
He added: “Carnoustie is one of the courses that I love to death, although I’ve never played well there. It’s probably got the best greens in Scotland. They’re always perfect. The golf course is always hard, and challenging, and I love it. It’s one of my favourites and I’m looking forward to playing there and at Troon.”
Like many of his peers, Daly holds the closing stretch at Carnoustie in the highest regard. He said: “That par three 16th is absolutely brutal. Even with no wind it’s hard. I played with Andrew Johnson is the Dunhill Links there last year and he hit a full driver which barely made the front edge.
“The 17th is a risk-reward hole off the tee and can be very tough depending on the wind direction. Then the 18th you’ve got to hit it long and straight and if you make par you feel like you’ve made birdie because the out of bounds comes in really hard on the left. And then you’ve got the ‘creek’ in front of the green. I think it’s one of the hardest four holes to finish on any golf course I’ve played.”
Daly’s career has certainly been eventful and he now feels calmer and more relaxed about life and golf. He admits that he now possesses the mental attitude he needed in the 1990s to dovetail with his immense physical talents.
“I think I wasted my talent in the ‘90s, especially the late ‘90s. All the money was coming in and I didn’t work hard enough at it. I didn’t do the right things to prepare myself to win tournaments. That’s not the case any more. My mental attitude is ten times better now.”
An improbable winner of the 1991 US PGA Championship, Daly rates his St Andrews victory more highly. “That win said to me that I could play links golf and made me feel that I really belonged on the PGA Tour by winning at the Home of Golf. To win an Open at St Andrews is a little bit more special than the PGA.”
He will be joined at Carnoustie by a glittering cast of around 30 fellow Major Champions, including Bernhard Langer, who won the first of his two Senior Open titles at Carnoustie in 2010. Also playing are Tom Watson, Mark O’Meara, Tom Lehman and a host of European legends such as Colin Montgomerie, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Jean Van de Velde.
Early bird tickets for 2016 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex are available here or by calling +44 (0)1344 850550.
Hospitality packages are also available here or by calling +44 (0) 1344 840550.