John Daly is the Mike Tyson of golf: you never know what’s coming next, but you can’t look away. During a brief visit to the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai on Thursday, I watched as Daly – at that time leading the tournament at 4-under-par – hit his drive on the 18th hole straight into the rough, just a few yards from where I was standing. As the trio of Daly, England’s Simon Khan and home favorite Wu Ashun prepared to play their shots, Daly looked on incredulously as one of the walking marshals stood on his ball, pushing it further into the grass.
“Oh man! You just stood on my ball! You just stood on my ball, didn’t you?”
Needless to say, Daly wasn’t best pleased. Five minutes later, though, a rules official allowed him to drop the ball next to where it was, meaning that it was now sitting up nicely in the rough. Daly hit his iron shot just short of the green, and then came no more than half an inch away from chipping in for birdie, but had to tap in for par and a round of 68.
I have to admit my first instinct was that the marshal hadn’t actually stepped on the ball, and that Daly was pulling a fast one, but the marshal confirmed to me he had felt it underfoot.
“That’s the worst I’ve felt all week. I feel like such an idiot.”
Daly sits in second, three shots behind leader Luke Guthrie, who shot a 7-under-par 65. Rory McIlroy, who badly needs a win but was the champion in 2011 and runner-up last year, is tied for 11th at -1, alongside China’s Huang Wenyi. The official European Tour event has a prize fund of $7 million, with $1,166,600 on offer for the winner.
Fearless prediction for Friday: following a very well worn playbook, Daly will start brightly and fade badly.