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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Daly Comeback Heavily Endorsed

May 23, 1997|THOMAS BONK

FORT WORTH — It's one thing to fall off the wagon as John Daly did, but it's quite another to land on his feet the way he has managed to do.

Daly, 31, who lost his $10-million endorsement deal with Wilson at the same time he lost in his experiment as a social drinker and had to enter the Betty Ford Clinic, is coming back to the PGA Tour in a big way.

Daly has signed a multiyear endorsement agreement with Callaway Golf, which will be

announced at a news conference Tuesday at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.

The long-hitting Daly, naturally, will play Callaway's Biggest Big Bertha driver. You didn't think he would be endorsing putters, did you?

Daly instantly becomes the Carlsbad clubmaker's biggest big name on the pro tour.

The Memorial marks the return of Daly to the PGA Tour, which he left in the wreckage of his hotel room after the first round of the Players Championship when paramedics were called to treat Daly after an alcohol binge.

Daly was admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic. During his stay there, Daly contacted Callaway founder Ely Callaway, who met with Daly and signed him to an endorsement contract that includes behavior clauses.

Chances are the Daly-Callaway alliance will prove worthwhile to both parties. Daly obviously needed another chance and Callaway long has sought a major presence on the PGA Tour, where Jim Furyk is its best-known client.

Callaway is the undisputed leader in popularity on both the Senior PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour but has not had much of an impact on the regular tour.

Daly is arguably the most popular U.S. player not named Tiger Woods, so if he plays to form, it doesn't look like much of a gamble for Callaway.

The 1991 PGA Champion, Daly became the youngest active player with two major titles when he won the 1995 British Open at 29.

COREY CHRONICLES

What does Corey Pavin need right now?

A putting stroke? Golf balls finding the fairway? New clubs?

"Confidence, that's what I need," Pavin said.

Three weeks before the U.S. Open, the only major tournament title in Pavin's collection, the 1995 champion says he believes he finally is ending the second-worst slump of his 14-year career.

Pavin tied for 33rd last week at the GTE Byron Nelson, but he finished with 65-69-68 and called that a good sign.

There haven't been many. Pavin has had one top-10 finish and is No. 121 on the money list. He shot a one-over-par 71 Thursday in the first round of the MasterCard Colonial, where he is the defending champion.

Pavin said his slump started right after he won at Colonial Country Club. He just isn't sure what started it.

To try to get straightened out and his confidence back, Pavin returned to his teacher, Chuck Cook of Austin.

Cook, who parted ways with Pavin about five months ago, worked on Pavin's setup. Cook told Pavin he was leaning over the ball too much and helped Pavin get more extension on his backswing to create a bigger swing arc.

"Things are starting to get a lot better," Pavin said. "All in all, my swing is in so much better shape."

Pavin said his first slump lasted about two years and ended in 1990.

"I want to stomp this thing out quickly," he said.

The fact that his slump has coincided with change of equipment from Cleveland to PPGR is coincidental, Pavin said.

"A lot of people didn't notice I hadn't been playing well since about last June," he said. "A lot of people just started looking at me since the first of the year. 'Wow, Corey isn't playing well, must be the clubs.' "

In the meantime, Pavin is still ironing things out. He chipped in Tuesday during a practice round, then chipped in again Wednesday.

"I've had a lot of practice chipping this year," he said.

GROWL INC.

It's the marketing partnership of the week. The Fort Worth zoo sponsored Tiger Woods in the Colonial tournament program.

BEND IT, SHAPE IT

Woody Austin earned a place on this year's highlight video when he slammed himself in the head with his putter at the MCI Classic.

Austin didn't even know he had managed to bend his putter until he got to the next green.

Said Austin: "They just don't make putters like they used to."

TIGER AND FERGIE

Woods' gallery last week included his mother, Kultida, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

Woods said he was introduced to Ferguson through Kevin Costner.

"Sarah and I are good friends," Woods said. "It's nice to meet her face to face."

OPEN AND SHUT

There were 7,013 entries for U.S. Open qualifying, which continues with sectional qualifying at 12 sites June 2-3.

El Caballero in Tarzana will be one of the sites June 2.

Only 65 qualifiers will make the field for the U.S. Open, June 12-15 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

Last year, Steve Jones came out of regional qualifying and won the Open at Oakland Hills.

It's not an easy path to take, according to Tom Lehman, but the U.S. Open is not a simple tournament either. Even the practice days are hard.

"The U.S. Open practice rounds are like a death march," Lehman said. "It's the worst three days in the history of golf. It's so slow."

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