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Daly still married to the game

Times Staff Writer

Going by the logos on his shirt, John Daly has six endorsement deals, which means they outnumber his ex-wives by two, but that’s not where he is focusing right now.

It’s all about the bad back that hurt him for weeks, not to mention the broken little finger on his right hand that sidelined him again, all leading to a totally forgettable 12 months on the golf course.

“It was an awful year,” he said.

Daly, 40, played 21 times, missed eight cuts, withdrew five times, wound up 193rd on the money list and lost his PGA Tour exempt status for 2007.

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And off the course, there was Daly drama almost daily, most of it surrounding his personal life. Sherrie Miller Daly filed for divorce in October, one day before Daly filed for divorce. That was four months after Sherrie, Daly’s fourth wife, finished serving a federal sentence involving money from an alleged drug and gambling ring.

But Sherrie and John, who also filed for divorce and chose not to go ahead with it three years ago, might not be through yet. Sherrie walked the course and watched Daly shoot a three-under-par 69 in Thursday’s first round of the Target World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.

“We love each other a little more than we hate each other,” Daly said. “We’re trying to work it out. I think we will.”

It has been a strange year, even by Daly’s standards. At Torrey Pines, the day before the Buick Invitational, he found out that Sherrie had been jailed, but he went ahead and played anyway.

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A couple of months later, his book, “My Life in and Out of the Rough,” described his gambling losses. And his reality show, “The Daly Planet,” took off and then was canceled.

His golf and his health suffered. Daly’s best tournament was a tie for 17th at the match play event at La Costa, where he won $85,000, which is half of the $170,000 he can earn by finishing last at Sherwood.

But none of his problems seem to have diminished Daly’s status as a star. Tiger Woods, in his role as tournament host, quickly put Daly on his list of players to invite.

“He’s one of the biggest draws in the world,” Woods said. “We’re running a business . . . so obviously, by John being here, bringing all the fans out . . . it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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Daly, who is listed at 220 pounds, appears much heavier. Woods was not exactly sympathetic when asked about Daly’s back injury.

“Well, his back is bothering him because he’s got his front to deal with,” Woods said.

Because Daly did not finish in the top 125 on the money list, he has no exempt status to enter tournaments next year, so he must rely on sponsors’ exemptions. Daly figures he’ll play between 19 and 22 tournaments in 2007, starting at the Sony Open at Honolulu and then at the Bob Hope and Torrey Pines.

Other than being glad a miserable year is over, Daly said he is remaining true to his nature in trying to keep his back healthy.

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“I don’t eat yogurt or do yoga,” he said. “Yoga is not in my repertoire.”

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Henrik Stenson shot a six-under 66 in the first round to take a two-shot lead over Woods and Geoff Ogilvy in the $5.6-million tournament. Stenson, who shot 31 on the back, birdied three of the last four holes.

Woods had two three-putts and failed to birdie two of the five par-five holes.

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“My speed on the greens was not very good,” he said after a 68.

Ogilvy, the U.S. Open champion, double bogeyed the last hole and fell from a share of the lead.

thomas.bonk@latimes.com


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