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Monday, August 07, 2006

PGA Championship Memories - John Daly, 1991

If not for a staggering sequence of events, John Daly would never have even been playing at the 1991 PGA Championship, let alone winning the event like a bolt out of the blue. AFter seeing his huge drives, it was the patrons and fellow players that were thunderstruck.

After failing twice to qualify for the field, Daly was listed as the 9th alternate. As of Monday of the tournament week, he had as good a chance of playing in his first PGA as he did of winning a chance to fly on the Space Shuttle. Then all sorts of chaos paved Daly's road to the miraculous.

1. More than 10 living past champions...all eligible to play, chose not to play, leaving room for some alternates;

2. The first alternate, Jumbo Ozaki skipped to "heal from an injury." The injury in question was never confirmed or explained.

3. Roger Davis passed to play in Europe instead.

4. Ronan Rafferty cancelled to be with his wife who was expecting.

5. The head professional at the host club is entitled to a slot, but this year Jim Ferriel declined saying "I have other priorities...like six merch tents and 400 volunteers to manage for a major championship."

6. Mark James w/d to play in Eyrope and solidify his chances of making the Ryder Cup team.

7. After talking with officials about how long and difficult a "monster" Crooked Stick could be, Lee Trevino - a two time champ - w/d saying "You can keep your Monster."

8. Marco Dawson, as yet unqualified, had only to hold off the challengers for one round of the Buick Open the week before, which he led by 3 on Sat night...he shot 74 and fell to 10th, missing his chance. The winner notified the PGA of his intention to play that Tuesday.

By this time, 3 of the alternate spots had opened.

9. Bobby Gilbert w/d, giving his place to the 4th alternate.

10. On Wednesday, after 2 days of practice, Paul Azinger w/d with a shoulder injury. At this point daly, standing as fourth alternate at that time, drove to Indianapolis arriving at midnight Thursday morning...without ever seeing the course for a practice round. All the next events happened as he drove to Indy. (AS HE DROVE!)

11. Nick Price, also expecting, w/d when word got to him his wife had moved closer to birth. His place went to 6th alternate Bill Sander. Sander declined, so Mark Lye got the invite.

12. Lye declined citing lack of a practice round. The slot was offered to Brad Bryant, who bagged saying "I have been playing lousy and see no need to spend another two days in the rough."

Daly arrived. Daly started Thursday morning cold as last night's pizza.

Daly won...without the benefit of any practice or prior knowledge. Amazing.


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