John Daly defending PNC Championship with son John II before knee replacement
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, figure to grab most of the spotlight at the PNC Championship, which starts Saturday at the Grand Lakes course at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando.
Jordan Spieth and his father, Shawn, are making their debut at the popular event; Spieth and Justin Thomas, who’s here, too, with his dad, are fresh off taking down Woods and Rory McIlroy at The Match.
But don’t overlook the defending champions, John Daly and John Daly II. They posted a 15-under 57 closing round in the scramble format and established a PNC scoring record of 27 under en route to winning for the first time in six starts. They earned $200,000 for the victory, Daly’s biggest payday since his lone win on PGA TOUR Champions, the 2017 Insperity Invitational.
They rolled in putts from everywhere in that 57, racking up 13 birdies and an eagle.
Daly, 56, attributed most of their stellar play to his son, who’s now a 19-year-old sophomore at Arkansas.
“He doesn’t go quite past parallel like his pops, but if you look at his balance, the balance is unbelievable,” said the elder Daly. “His right leg never goes out, so he turns really good and his follow-through is so powerful. He’s so strong; that’s why he hits it so far. Every part of his body is working.
“I hit a couple of drives and some really good wedges (last year), but it was really all him. He hit some great putts.”
For the praise bestowed upon Daly II, the younger Daly throws it back to his dad. As a kid, Daly II practiced his short game “for hours” under his dad’s watchful eye, absorbing best practices from the two-time major champion. The same can’t be said for the full swing, though.
“I’d probably break every club if I tried to do that,” Daly II quipped of copying his dad’s action.
Team Daly beat Team Woods by two strokes in 2021, withstanding 11 consecutive birdies from Tiger and Charlie during the final round (Nos. 6-17).
The elder Daly celebrated with perhaps “one too many,” quipped his son, and the duo also attended a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game before departing Florida.
It was a festive occasion with the PNC Championship’s traditional champion belt buckles, but the elder Daly said he’s not feeling any pressure to defend the title.
“I think I can say it for everybody: We just want to be with our kid,” Daly said. “It’s such a great tournament. We’re looking forward to it. It was great to win in it.
“I’m a little banged up, so I’ll be the saddle and he (Daly II) will be the horse.”
The elder Daly does, indeed, come into the PNC Championship hobbling. He is scheduled to have his left knee replaced on Wednesday. He had surgery to replace his right knee three years ago and said he can’t wait to get this one done.
“It’s tough when you don’t have a follow-through,” Daly said. “I’m basically just trying to stay on one leg. But the adrenaline of playing with my son will get me through.
“He hits it so much farther than I do and putts it so much better than I do. I like going first to give him a line on the greens.”
Team Daly figures to use the same strategy again this year. It obviously worked well last year, especially on the greens. And given the format, the tournament really comes down to which pair putts it the best.
One of the most interesting aspects of the PNC Championship is to see the development of the younger players from year to year. That John Daly II now hits it farther off the tee than his father was hard to imagine when he was 12 and playing in his first PNC Championship.
There’s no doubt his dad is his biggest fan.
“It’s just so much fun. Him being in school, I don’t get to see him as much as I want, or any of my kids,” Daly said. “It’s just a blast. Whether we win or not, we’re going to have a good time.
“His work ethic is unbelievable. He practices all the time, works on every aspect of his game. I just tell him, ‘Do the opposite of your dad and you’ll be just fine, kid.’”
Elise Tallent contributed reporting