SAN FRANCISCO -- The memory of last year's U.S. Open has stayed with John Daly. Less than two months out of a six-week stay at the Betty Ford Center to treat his alcohol addiction, Daly walked off the course at Congressional Country Club after making the turn in the second round.
"I had the shakes," Daly recalled yesterday. "Basically, I came back too soon. I feel a lot better today than I did a year ago."
Daly was talking about his ability to stay sober. But the former PGA and British Open champion could also have been talking about the way he played his opening round in the 98th U.S. Open. He left his signature club -- his driver -- out of his golf bag and still finished with a 1-under par 69.
After making birdie on the par-5 first hole, Daly played the next eight holes in 3-over par. Then he made three birdies on the back nine, including a 30-footer on the par-4 12th hole. It was only the third time in 24 rounds at the Open that Daly had shot below 70.
"It was just one of those rounds where I was very patient," said Daly, 32. "Shooting 2-over on the front nine, I wasn't too discouraged. Not carrying the driver is kind of tough, but I think it's the way I need to play the golf course."
Daly is considering retiring the driver for a while even after the Open is over, considering how erratic both it and his game have been this year. Since finishing tied for fourth in successive events back in March, Daly has been under par in only one of his last nine tournaments.
It is a move that could cost Daly a substantial amount of bonus money from Callaway should he finish first on the PGA Tour in driving distance, but he figures it may cost him nearly as much in prize money if he continues to use his Great Big Bertha driver.
"It's cost me a lot of shots the last four or five weeks," said Daly, who took last week off after missing the cut at the Kemper Open. "But I'd rather be hitting it from the fairway than from the rough."
While Daly has not recovered the on-course magic that saw him come out of nowhere to win the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick and later back it up with the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews, he is putting the pieces of his life back together.
Aside from his continued sobriety, Daly recently reconciled with his wife, Paulette.
"I'm happy to be here," he said. "I'm very happy to be playing. Basically I'm lucky to be alive."
No great expectations
Every Open seems to have its share of one-round wonders, but Joe Durant is hoping not to be among them. The 34-year-old journeyman, in his second year of his second stint on the PGA Tour, shot a 2-under-par 68 in his Open debut.
Durant birdied four of the first five holes and was 5-under through 13 holes. He noticed he was in the lead and got a bit nervous. He recovered from a double-bogey 6 at the 14th hole with a birdie on the par-3 15th, but bogeys at the par-5 16th and par-4 17th brought back a bit of reality.
"I just want to play four solid rounds of golf," said Durant, who has made the cut in four of his last five events on the tour. "To think about winning a golf tournament, especially a tournament like the U.S. Open, is not in my realm of thinking. I'm just taking it a day at a time."
Durant might not have had his share of good luck on the course during a career that began in 1987, but he's far ahead of the curve off the course. Twice in the course of two months back in 1995, Durant's home in Pensacola, Fla., was hit by a hurricane. The first time it hit, Durant was playing a Nike Tour event in South Dakota, but his wife and her family were there.
"They've never never forgiven me for it," he said.
Two players, Dudley Hart and Tommy Tolles, withdrew from the tournament. Hart, whose career was nearly ended by a serious wrist injury three years, pulled out after re-injuring the wrist while shooting a first-round 78.
Tolles didn't make it that far. Coming off his best finish in an otherwise disappointing season -- a tie for third at the Kemper Open -- Tolles had injured his back while practicing here. He re-injured it yesterday hitting his second shot on the sixth hole, then walked off the course.
Pub Date: 6/19/98