Outplaying History: Tiger Woods, John Daly Battling More Than St. Andrews

Ryan McNishCorrespondent IJuly 15, 2010

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 13:  (L-R Top Row) Padraig Harrington of Ireland, John Daly of the USA, Tiger Woods of the USA, Bill Rogers of the USA, (L-R Bottom Row) Roberto De Vicenzo of Argentina and Tom Watson of the USA pose for a photo prior to the past champions dinner before the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 13, 2010 in St Andrews, Scotland.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Many have speculated this year's British Open could be the tournament where Tiger Woods is finally able to make his comeback in the golfing world with an overall win.

Since his off-the-green issues surrounding numerous mistresses, Woods has been all but present in golf this year.  The world’s No. 1 golfer has competed in six tournaments, and although he’s finished in the top ten twice out of those six times, he’s also missed the cut, withdrawn, and placed out of the top 40 in three of the remaining four.

His poor play coupled with his poor judgment off the field has left reporters asking him more questions about his wife, family, and alleged divorce, than they have about anything remotely applicable to his ability at playing the game of golf.

In the 2010 Masters we expected that to change.  We expected Woods to return to glory where he first made a splash in the golfing world. 

But that didn’t happen.

The golfer finished fourth, and the following two tournaments he missed the cut and withdrew, respectively. 

So, instead, we all anticipated his next big comeback to be at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.  The story was all set up: Woods would make his comeback both athletically and morally by outperforming everyone on the same course where years before he completed arguably the greatest finish in golfing history.

Instead, he once again finished fourth, and his following tournament at the AT&T National, Woods placed 46th.

America and golfing fans decided not to give up hope.

This week at the British Open, everybody is once more looking for Tiger Woods to make his comeback.  They are all praying for the story to write itself: Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer of all time, returns to glory on the course where he won his first open—on the course where the game started.

In comes John Daly.

Media relations-wise, there was a time when John Daly was in the same position as Woods.

Unlike Woods though (and largely for racial reasons), for some reason people appreciated Daly’s off-the-field antics.  His on-the-field mischief, which trickled down from his fast lane lifestyle, were a breath of fresh air to a sport needing a breeze.

With his famed “grip it and rip it” long distance drive, holding a cigarette in one hand and a diet coke in the other,  his RV in the parking lot of whatever private course the tournament was being held at, and hung over from the night before, Daly was the real life incarnate of Happy Gilmore.

That is, until, Daly’s lifestyle went from charming and comical to serious and concerning. 

People started realizing the blond-haired, southern-raised golfer wasn’t a partier; he was an alcoholic. 

The pressure of competition turned into anger, and hangovers turned into withdrawals. 

Soon enough, in the categories of divorce, arrests, and checking into rehab, Daly was a repeat offender.  His golf game started to show the effects of the lifestyle he had chosen.

After each divorce, or arrest, or inside story passed throughout the golf world, everybody waited for Daly to finally turn things around and once again show the promise as a golfer he showed in the youth of his career.

We almost witnessed that moment five years ago.  In 2005 at the WGC-American Express Championship, Daly missed a short distance par putt in the second extra playoff round to hand Tiger Woods the victory.

For the next couple of years, Daly went back to the Daly we all had come to know.  His swing coach quit on him, noting that getting drunk was more important for the golfer than golfing itself, and later on Daly would be taken into protective custody by police in 2008 for being found passed out drunk outside of a Winston-Salem Hooters restaurant.

It appeared as though the golfer’s career, and life, were all but dead.

In 2009 though, Daly pulled a Bobby Fisher and appeared out of nowhere onto the golf scene once again.  With a bright new look, a slimmer build, and what appeared to be a healthy lifestyle, Daly took to the courses as best he could. 

Unfortunately, it appeared that too much time had passed and Daly wouldn’t be able to pick up where he once left off. 

Fast forward to today, and after the first day at the British Open Daly is three behind the lead and tied for third at St. Andrews.

But he’s more than that.  He shot a six under par score of 66, and if not for a few bad shots, Daly could not only be in first place, but could also have an all-time record-breaking first day of 62!

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods looks poised to make a comeback of his own. 

The golfer who is known for his closing ability more so than his opening, is only four back from the lead and tied for eighth overall. 

St. Andrews is historic for both of these men.  For Daly, it is the last open he’s won, a whopping 15 years ago in 1995.

For Woods, it was the first open he ever won, and he took it again 10 years after Daly did in 2005.  If Woods is able to seal the deal at St. Andrews a third time it will be an all-time record at golf’s oldest course.

The two golfers may have similarities in the sense that the course is historic for both, but as people the two are polar opposites—especially when it comes to the troubles in their private lives.  

When asked about his private life in press conferences before and after he hits the green, Woods is short and evasive, if he answers the question at all.

Daly on the other hand has no problem making the media laugh once again at his off the filed shenanigans.  He lit up the room today when talking about his recent weight loss surgery on his stomach: "The thing I miss most about having the band put in is I can't drink the vitamin D milk, the whole milk… I used to drink a half-gallon of that a day. When you used to be as hungover as I used to be, it was great. Got rid of everything.”

With two talented golfers whose careers were sidetracked by off-the-field incidents now ready to come back and win one for the Americans on British soil, the question remains as to who America would rather see win one more. 

Woods' return may get him back on track to breaking Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record in tournaments.

Daly’s return will no doubt be short lived, but it may give us a glimpse to what we’ve missed out on all these years.  A small scope of what was taken away from the game of golf, us, and him.

As the weekend goes on, we could see a repeat of 2005, with both golfers in the lead on the final day.

When it comes to who will win, once again on golf’s most historic course, history is the overriding factor.  

And the winner will be determined by who can overcome their own.