Daly off to good start toward an invitation to Masters
By BOB HARIG
Published March 19, 2004
ORLANDO - There didn't appear to be any problems Thursday with John Daly's right hand, the one that got caught in a car door last week and kept him from playing the Honda Classic.
Daly, who won the Buick Invitational last month - his first PGA Tour victory in nearly nine years - and is closing in on an invitation to next month's Masters, birdied the first three holes at the Bay Hill Club and finished with 4-under-par 68. He was tied for eighth, two shots behind leaders Chad Campbell, Darren Clarke and Shigeki Maruyama.
"This course has not been too kind to me in the past," said Daly, who three times has shot in the 80s at Bay Hill, including once making an 18 at the par-5 sixth hole. "You can't think ahead, you can't think behind, because it can grab you at any time."
Daly can earn a spot in the Masters by finishing among the top 10 on the money list after next week's Players Championship, or by moving into the top 50 in the world ranking. He is eighth on the money list and 63rd in the world.
"I've just got to stay positive and try to do it," Daly said. "It's a challenge, no doubt about it."
AUGUSTA ON HIS MIND: Australia's Aaron Baddeley narrowly missed winning his first PGA Tour event three weeks ago in Tucson, finishing second to Heath Slocum. While a win would not automatically have qualified him for the Masters, it would have made the task much easier. Baddeley is 87th in the world ranking and 29th on the PGA Tour money list. He needs strong finishes at Bay Hill and the Players.
"That's the goal," Baddeley said after shooting 68. "If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I'm not going to sit and sulk. I'm going to go and work hard on my game and get better so I make sure I'm there the following year."
Baddeley knows what he has to do. "Basically, if I win, I'll be fine," he said. "So I'm planning on doing that."
TOUGH DAY: Tournament host Arnold Palmer had a rough round. In fact, it was his worst in 26 appearances in the tournament. Palmer shot 88, which probably is a pretty good score for a 74-year-old playing tough PGA Tour conditions on a 7,257-yard course. Palmer hit just one of 18 greens in regulation - the par-5 16th - for his only birdie.
AROUND BAY HILL: Ernie Els, playing on the PGA Tour for the first time since a January win at the Sony Open, shot 73. ... Jerry Kelly shot 67 despite a case of food poisoning that sent him to the hospital Wednesday night. ... Tiger Woods is ranked 129th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting just 58.7 percent of the fairways. But he led the field Thursday, hitting 13 of 14 (92.9 percent).