From Hillis to Daly with a whole lot of wind


Published Sunday, July 20, 2008

Noting the ups and downs of golf and two individuals in the news, here's a summer batch of "David's Appetizers," assorted musings and observations from the sports scene:

HILLIS

The Conway fullback Peyton Hillis, a seventh-round draft choice, has signed a contract with the Denver Broncos. While the chances of a seventh-round pick making an NFL roster are often nebulous, many Bronco observers think he has an excellent chance.

Hillis' unique skill set fits nicely into many of the Broncos need and the number of positions he played in the Arkansas offense helps the options.

He has great hands for eight receiver, slot or tight end and he can help a short passing game that has previously been a weakness for Denver. He gives the Broncos a lot more options at tight end. The Bronco faithful also think he has the potential be a solid blocker for quarterback Jake Cutler. There is an indication he'll get a look on special teams (where he also has a lot of experience) and in certain defensive situations.

Hillis offers a lot of options and that's good going into camp.

BRITISH OPEN

Royal Birkdale, the site of this year's British Open, is a course of angles and challenges golfers to stay in rhythm and on balance. That intensifies when you add fierce winds which reached in excess of 40 miles per hour Saturday and made bogey a good score on many holes.

Wind in golf is a great equalizer and a non-descriminating discombobulator. It can take apart the most solid golfer. It's unnerving for a golfer to have to judge both wind, green and grain on a putt. It's tough to concentrate on a putt when a golfer has to worry about the ball moving about on a green.

Fighting brutal winds, Peter Hanson five-putted from 6 feet Saturday. The three groups of leaders played the almost sadistic No. 10 hole in a combined one hour and 10 minutes and were a combined 8-over. That wind on No. 10 was enough to clear a beach.

And a crosswind has especially a villainous touch.

"Even the best pros tend to underplay the wind," said golfing giant Tom Watson, now a commentator for ABC.

In a crosswind, golfers have to play a regular shot like a putt with a wicked break.

It's interesting to watch the best golfers in the world see their balls act like knuckleballs at the old Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Already struggling with his ball, Phil Mickelson lost his cap Saturday to some thickets in England.

It's wild to see these marvelously skilled golfers find themselves in vicious lies out of thickets, have to play a shot while leaning horizontally, having to play out of gnarly stuff, out of bunkers, off mounds and in brush that commentators could only describe as a "bunch of junk."

Forget any cute fades or draws or finesse shots, this is a course golfers just try to get it on the green and hope you can putt in a wind tunnel.

Commentator Ian Baker-Finch may have said it best in watching the circus of humiliation Saturday, "Even the seagulls are walking today."

JOHN DALY

Daly, the former British Open champ and normally one of the most popular golfers in the British Isles, finished a 29-over and finished figuratively miles away from the cut line.

It was hard to watch a golfer who once had so much talent have a game that has gone so far south.

It's hard to analyze because there are so many variables for the total collapse: injuries, playing conditions, physical condition, lack of passion, personal issues and just plain psyche. Daly used to be a fun golfer to watch, even when he wasn't playing very well. Now, it's like watching one train wreck after another from an individual who is light years from being at the top of his game, mentally and physically. He's not an attraction anymore.

Daly needs to make a decision about whether he wants to get serious about golf again and get in the mental and physical shape to do it. Check out how Greg Norman looks at age 53 and Daly looks at 42 and you see the challenge.

Without a commitment and a passion, Daly might has well settle down to drinking beer, telling stories, making trick shots and enjoying an icon existence at a country club.

Right now, he has no business in a major tournament at the highest levels of golf.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net)



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