I remember watching this blonde youngster with a mullet striding confidently up the fairways at Crooked Stick Golf Club in 1991. He had taken the golf world by storm by getting into the PGA Championship as the ninth alternate and then went on to become the most unforeseen major championship winner in modern history.
I shook my head at how things fell together for him. Nick Price withdrew to be home for the birth of his first child. Three other players declined the invitation, and Daly got a phone call from tournament officials at 5 p.m. Wednesday. He drove seven-and-a-half hours to Carmel, Ind., hired Price’s caddy, Jeff “Squeaky” Medlen, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The world appeared to be at the 25-year-old John Daly’s feet, waiting for him to grab it and perhaps become one of the all-time greats of the game. Sometimes, however, things aren’t as they appear.
Instead of becoming a great, he became a great sideshow. With the ability to hit the ball a mile off the tee and then create amazing shots with an amazing short game, Daly was expected to win regularly and often. He did neither. He registered five wins, the last coming in 2004. The best finish Daly has recorded in the last six years was a surprising tie for fifth in the Reno-Tahoe Open this year.
While his on-course accomplishments have fallen well short of expectations, his off-course pattern of ridiculous and damaging behavior are well below standards expected in regular life and certainly below what’s expected of a player competing on the PGA Tour.
Is it any wonder that tournaments have stopped giving exemptions to Daly? For a guy who now has no standing on any tour, exemptions are the only avenue to get into PGA Tour events other than some Monday qualifying, and Daly doesn’t have the ability to play well for four rounds, let alone five.
Trashed hotel rooms, gambling problems and serious issues with alcohol have all have played a part in Daly’s demise. He’s had some injuries—ribs, shoulder, hand and elbow—but they’re just a part of his decline.
Go to Google, type in “John Daly Incidents” and see the list of entries.
It’s extensive, and his transgressions range from trashing a hotel room in 1997 during the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., to trying to re-enact a scene from Tin Cup, to firing his putter into the woods after upset about having his picture taken multiple rounds during the second round of a tournament in Hong Kong. A year ago, he walked off the course in the Australian Open after dumping every ball in his bag in a lake.
Oh, and that display came just a week after he withdrew from the Singapore Open because of fatigue.
The time has come for the PGA Tour to follow the lead of the golf leadership in Australia, who said the native of Dardanelle, Arkansas wouldn’t be welcome down under in the future.
They can’t do anything officially to keep tournaments from offering him sponsors exemptions, but the word can certainly be spread behind the scenes to make sure tournaments are aware of what they’re getting. Daly is currently ranked 193rd in the world and has made 55 just cuts in 120 starts over the last six years.
He’s as likely to walk off a tournament as he is to shoot a round under par. Who knows when someone with a camera or phone will click a photo, sending him into either a rage or another injury?
I’m not one of those people who believes golf needs an occasionally over-the-edge guy to create interest and keep golf in the news. Golf has had Tiger Woods in the news the last three years for all the wrong reasons, and I dare say the game did not benefit because of Woods’ woes.
John Daly is not Tiger Woods—never has been and, of course, never will be. His rap sheet of offenses is much longer than Woods’ and has been ongoing for far too long. Daly’s worth to the game is far outweighed by the risk of embarrassment he poses every time he tees it up.
At age 46, it might seem strange to say that John Daly needs to get on with his life’s work, but that’s where we are at this juncture.
Ask yourself this question: Would you rather watch John Daly in a pair of Loudmouth pants hitting the ball who knows where or one of the seemingly endless stream of young guns who can really play and bring legitimate excitement to the game?
Editor's Note: A previous incarnation of this article stated two incorrect facts regarding Daly's world golf ranking and European tour card status that have since been rectified. We apologize for the errors.