Daly drives Open fans happy with easygoing style

June 18, 1992|By ASSOCAITED PRESS

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- John Daly's driver remains the longest and loudest on the PGA Tour. There is, however, a noticeably gentler side to his game, too.

The man whose ability to hit a golf ball more than 300 yards draws instant galleries, went through a final tuneup for this week's U.S. Open with a rollicking practice round yesterday at Pebble Beach with veteran Fuzzy Zoeller and first time Open starter Charles Rymer.

Between trading one-liners with Zoeller and his dueling drives with the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Rymer, Daly signed hundreds of autographs for young and old alike.

"You've got a little head kid," the reigning PGA champion told 8-year-old Robin Smith of Salem, Ore., as he obliged on the boy's request that Daly autograph his cap.

Later, Daly pulled another youngster out of the crowd, handed him his graphite-shafted driver and told him to "rip it." The kid failed to make contact, and Daly reached into his bag for an iron.

The boy found the shorter club easier to handle, sending the ball 50 yards down the fairway.

When he did get serious, Daly's tee shots consistently found the narrow fairways and his iron shots charged the pin. In typical Daly form, he needed just a driver and 7-iron to reach the 505-yard, par-5 No. 2 hole.

Several times the unknown Rymer outdrove Daly, including on the tradition-rich par-5 18th. There, Rymer negotiated the 548 yards of narrow fairway and ominous cliffs in two, his second shot finishing up pin high and 14 feet away.

Daly also went for the green in two, but his second shot found the ocean as the gallery, easily the largest of any group, moaned in disappointment.

Afterward, Daly proclaimed his game in good enough shape to make a run at another major title.

"I'm much more consistent and the trajectory on my irons is a lot better," Daly said. "I'd just like to be in contention, to be within two or three shots on Saturday."

Daly declined to discuss his life away from the course, which for a while last year gained him almost as much notoriety as his only win.

His troubles began soon after his fist-waving, triumphant walk up the 18th fairway at Crooked Stick, the site of last year's PGA Championship.

Daly and his girlfriend Bettye Fulford had planned to be married in Las Vegas, last September, but postponed it until December. They broke up just before Christmas and Fulford filed palimony and paternity lawsuits, contending she had contributed to Daly's success while the couple lived together.

The lawsuits were later withdrawn by Fulford, the couple settled their differences and were married earlier this year. Two weeks ago, Fulford gave birth to the couple's daughter.

Daly is 59th on this year's money list with $151,955 and two top 10 finishes. He was second at the Kemper Open last month and finished eighth at the Los Angeles Open.

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