At the 2022 Regions Tradition, in Alabama — annually the first senior major championship of the year — John Daly was disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard after a second-round 72 that included double-bogeys on two of his last three holes. The PGA Tour Champions never explained exactly what happened, but for Daly, that week marked the beginning of an unfortunate run in the senior tour’s marquee events. In the other two senior majors in which Daly competed last year, he withdrew from both with knee troubles.
In December, Daly addressed his injury with a left knee replacement followed by a rehab stint. In March and April, he played in four regular-season senior events, never finishing better than 38th, and then in mid-May kicked off his senior major season at the Tradition. He opened 75-76 followed by a weekend 71-73 that landed him in a tie for 65th. Only nine players finished lower. His knee was still an issue. Last week, Daly withdrew from the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, citing swelling in the knee, which brings us to this week and the playing of the senior tour’s second major of 2023: the Senior PGA Championship at the PGA of America’s new Gil Hanse-designed tournament course, Fields Ranch East, in Frisco, Texas.
Daly opened with a double-bogey 7 and turned in 38. After another double-bogey, this time at the par-3 13th, he called it a day. His knee was at him again. Only on this occasion, Daly — who rides a cart in senior events — said that his knee was aggravated not only by the normal wear-and-tear of playing on it but also by a particular design feature on Hanse’s course, which was completed just earlier this year and is seeing its first tournament action this week.
“So hard to play tee boxes that are down grade,” Daly tweeted late Thursday evening. “Golf course is great but I wish they would make their tee boxes level! We are not young anymore!! Some guys are ADA and we can not follow through on down hill tee boxes!! I’m sorry @PGA you are going the wrong way in golf but I love y’all. But you are making holes really really long.. St Andrew’s never had a downhill tee box. Quit while your NOT ahead…. Thank you 13”
Which was presumably a sarcastic reference to the hole on which Daly decided he’d had enough.
A PGA of America spokesperson did not reply to a GOLF.com inquiry about Daly’s gripe but of the 16 players who conducted press conferences after the first round not a single one of them surfaced any complaints about the grade of the tee boxes.
It’s an unusual beef to hear about a tournament site at this level of the game, though not unprecedented. At the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, the unevenness of the tee boxes was publicly noted by at least a couple of the players. Mike Davis, then the USGA’s executive also spoke to this design quirk on the Roberts Trent Jones Jr. course in the lead-up to event, saying, “…In some cases we may end up putting tee markers on slight slopes as opposed to you think, well, you’re always going to have teeing markers on very flat areas. But there may be some where we give the players a little downhill slope, a little uphill slope, a side slope. So that’s interesting.”
Beyond Daly’s tweak, Field Ranch East’s coming-out party has been a success through the early part of the week, with players offering positive reviews of the rolling, wide-open course that works its way through dry washes and around Panther Creek.
“It never lets up,” Davis Love said Thursday after a one-over 73 that had him nine back of Padraig Harrington’s 18-hole lead. “They always say, ‘Well, it’s right there in front of you.’ Well, it’s not right there in front of you — you got to figure it out. There’s all kinds of little challenges that you wouldn’t get a lot of places. I played a few of [Hanse’s] courses and watched a few of ’em on TV lately and you just have to think about every shot.
“A lot of times out there I started thinking I was playing like a Kapalua hole or a Seminole hole. Like if I hit it over there it will end up over there. Even the last hole I hit a 4-iron in and there’s no hole, there’s no pin. You don’t even shoot at the pin. You shoot into the hill in the back left corner and hope you don’t hit it in the bunker and catch the slope. So there’s a lot of British Open kind of thinking out there. Linksy course on a big horse farm.”
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