Daley’s first title a major
PITTSBURGH Flanked by major champions and pursued by big names, Joe Daley stuck to his game.
Twenty years after quitting his job as a credit salesman to turn pro, Daley wasn’t going to back down.
Not with his first victory on the PGA or Champions tours within reach. Not even with Fred Couples, Mark Calcavecchia and Tom Lehman among those looming.
Daley won the Senior Players Championship on Sunday for his first Champions Tour title, closing with a 2-under 68 for a 14-under 266 total and a two-stroke victory over Lehman at Fox Chapel.
Daley outdueled final-round playing partners Calcavecchia—the winner the previous week in the Montreal Championships—and Couples, the defending champion. Daley entered the day tied with Calcavecchia and a shot ahead of Couples and Lehman, who won the previous major last month.
“I was my competition—not them,” Daley said. I’m my own competition. Have been for years.”
After he won, Daley wore the same grin he had throughout much of a weekend in which he was always near the top of the leaderboard but never the center of attention.
The 51-year-old Daley became slightly choked up on the 18th green after capping his victory with a 20-foot putt for his tournament-high 24th birdie.
Daley shook his head disbelievingly sand said, “Wow” four times before four questions were asked in his media conference.
“All I was keying on was what I had next, with the best possible attitude and keeping my emotions under control,” Daley said. “I had a little adrenaline going later in the round and I dealt with it pretty good, so here I am.”
The victory earned Daley full Champions Tour status for a calendar year.
Before this weekend, Daley was perhaps best known for missing out on a PGA Tour card in 2000 when a short putt popped out of the hole during Q-School.
Daley earned $405,000, more than double the $155,537 he made in 59 PGA Tour starts spread out over six seasons between 1994-2007. He had a tour card only in 1996 and ’98, with only one top-10 finish.
Daley hit 43 of 56 fairways to tie for third in the tournament and had only four three-putts all tournament, none in the final round.
“I thought he might get a little shaky in the back, but he was solid. ...” Calcavecchia said.
Olin Browne finished at 11 under after a 65. Calcavecchia had a 72 to match Couples at 10 under.
At Rogers, Ark., Ai Miyazato shot a 6-under 65 to overcome a five-shot deficit and win the NW Arkansas Championship for her second LPGA Tour victory of the year and ninth overall.
The Japanese star made a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to reach 12 under, and her victory at Pinnacle Country Club was secured when Mika Miyazato missed a 15-foot birdie attempt on No. 18.
Ai Miyazato had seven birdies and one bogey in the final round to finish a stroke ahead of Mika Miyazato and Azahara Munoz.
Ai Miyazato also won the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii in April, and has 15 Japan LPGA victories.
Mika Miyazato had a 67, and Munoz closed with a 65. Veronica Felibert, the rookie from Venezuela who opened the day with a four-shot lead, shot a 72 to tie for fourth at 10 under.