The pants are loud, but the cry for help is even louder. His shots are long, but not nearly as long as the list of self-destructive moves that have ruined a potentially legendary career. John Daly, to some, is a loveable presence, a prodigal son who has strayed at times, but remains a sympathetic figure worthy of our care.
To me, he is none of that. Daly is an utter disappointment, and at this point, a huge, and I mean HUGE black mark on professional golf. In truth, the word “professional” should never be in the same area code as Daly, let alone the same column. Watching the latest incarnation of the PGA Tour’s version of Amy Winehouse is more pathetic than professional.
The banana yellow shirts, the 1967 psychedelic wallpaper pants, the cigarette butt clenched between two fingers, all of these are signs of a man who truly believes his own B.S. Moreover, and perhaps more sadly, they are the signs of a man who should have been reprimanded more sternly by the PGA years ago, instead of coddled into more mistakes and self-ruination.
It is clear that the PGA views Daly as some sort of Babe Ruth, without the great statistics of course. Daly is a sloppy, slovenly soul. Alliteration aside, he is a walking cautionary tale, or as Ellen Page referred to herself as the title character in the film “Juno,” a cautionary whale. One problem, Juno was a movie character. Daly’s overstuffed behind is real life stuff.
Some would make the point that Daly is, in fact, a character. To the movies we go once again in paraphrasing Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe in “Pulp Fiction.” Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you HAVE character. Those words apply perfectly to Daly.
The PGA continues to enable Daly by allowing his sorry carcass to infect every tournament that he can crawl out of bed to attend. Many golf media types have actually wasted space in print and online wondering if Daly could ever win another Major championship. Sure he could, if Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating contest was ever sanctioned by the PGA. Until binge drinking and chain smoking become akin to long drives and sweet chips, Daly is out of luck.
I know the history, but it doesn’t change the present. Daly turned pro in 1987, and in 1991, won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. In 1995, he took home his second Major, winning the British Open at St. Andrews. In between, he warmed the hearts of hackers everywhere with his down-home style and biker mentality. He was a refreshing change from the sterile, clean cut, pink-panted, Izod-clad denizens of the game.
Daly was one of us. He looked like us, talked like us. Hell, he was even shaped like us. He could hit that little white ball with authority from 1 through 18, then smile and tip back a six pack at the 19th hole.
Daly was in the mold of other charismatic sports personalities. Men like William Perry, Dennis Rodman, Bill Lee and John Matuszak. Like all of these memorable figures, Daly possessed great skills, and like all of them, those skills were overshadowed by ego, showmanship, demons or addictions.
Very few athletes have been able to successfully balance on-field success with off-field excess. The aforementioned Ruth comes to mind, but even he eventually paid for his misdeeds. Because of his self-aggrandizing manner, “The Babe” was never seen as managerial timber, and his wild ways led to health problems and an early death at the age of 53.
I wish no such fate for Daly, and like many of the golf fandom, I do see the charm of the big guy, but lately, that charm has been replaced by a realization. It seems to me that Daly is quite happy with the rather obnoxious figure he cuts on the course these days. It’s like he is saying, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m a complete screw up and I’m still here!’ There are some who might say that reaching a level of self-satisfaction and acceptance is a good thing, in Daly’s case, not so much.
We all have a John Daly in our lives, a person who trumps Morris the Cat and has about 90 lives, someone who falls into a pile of manure and emerges smelling like a rose. With these people, we forgive a lot because they are different, even special.
John Daly disappoints us at every turn, and we like it because each disappointment gives him another shot at redemption, a pitiful cycle indeed. Daly’s charity work is well documented as is his blithe demeanor, but I’m done. I understand why we all care about John Daly. I just wonder if he cares about us.
Syndicated columnist John Molori hosts the “J-Team Radio Show” at AM 1120 WBNW and jteamradio.com. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.