Behold: The John Daly Experience

By By Scott Hanson
Published on
Behold: The John Daly Experience

SEATTLE: John Daly has not won an event on an American golf tour since 2004, but no matter, he is the biggest draw to hit the PGA's Champions Tour since Fred Couples turned 50 six years ago.

Everyone, it seems, wants to enjoy the John Daly experience: the enormous drives, the loud outfits and the occasional meltdowns. And the big man is coming to Seattle, bringing extra buzz to this week's Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie, which begins Friday.

It's no wonder Daly has been prominent in this year's promotion of the Boeing Classic. Tournament director Michelle DeLancy said she noticed excitement, especially on social media, as soon as Daly committed to playing.

"We always get good crowds, but I do think having John in the field will boost attendance, but by how much we don't know," DeLancy said.

Even though his results on the 50-and-over tour have not been as good as many expected, large galleries have followed Daly throughout his rookie season.

That's because watching Daly is great theater. Fans love the long ball, and no one on the tour hits it farther; Daly's average drive is over 300 yards. But it's more than just that. There is always a chance you will see something you'll be talking about for years.

Daly, who was unavailable to be interviewed for this article, could eagle every par-5, his length off the tee being a huge advantage at TPC Snoqualmie. Or he could do something similar to what happened in Australia in 2011 when he hit seven consecutive balls into the water, then walked off the course because he was out of balls. Or when he had an 18 on the 18th hole at Bay Hill in Florida after hitting six balls in the water.

He could open Friday with a 62, but it could also be an 82. And either way, it will be entertaining. In a sport that has a reputation for being a bit stuffy, Daly is the opposite, so human, his personal struggles so out there for everyone to see. He even wrote about them in his 2006 book, "My Life In & Out of the Rough."

There is no doubt Daly's career has been hindered by personal travails, but to call his story a golf tragedy would be inaccurate.

Sure, he might not have reached his potential, but he also has won two major championships, the 1991 PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open. Great players such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker are still seeking their first major titles.

Often harmful to himself, Daly is quite generous and philanthropic to others. When he announced himself to the world with his remarkable win in the 1991 PGA Championship, he donated $30,000 of the $230,000 he won toward the education of two kids whose father had died from a lightning strike at that tournament. He also is involved with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

That's John Daly.

In four days in 1991, Daly went from someone who was a virtual unknown, even to golf fans, to being a worldwide phenomenon. The story has often been told. He was the ninth alternate into that year's PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind.

He drove all night Wednesday from Memphis to get there and learned the morning of the first round that he was playing that afternoon, with Nick Price's late withdrawal giving him the final spot. Daly had missed 11 cuts in 24 starts, so his entrance into the field was not even a blip on the radar.

And then he went out and overpowered the course, hitting drives farther than people had seen, and by Sunday night he was a 3-shot winner and an instant superstar. Unlike other famous golfers who achieve their fame gradually, Daly's game was virtually instantaneous.

For Daly, it was obviously too much, too soon. The intervening years have seen two trips to alcohol rehab, several suspensions by the PGA Tour and, according to him, $55 million to $57 million in gambling losses from 1992-2007. But his popularity never waned.

He has not had status on the PGA Tour in recent years but has had no trouble receiving sponsor exemptions, with tournament organizers jumping at the chance to get one of the game's greatest draws. And here he is at 50, with three top-25 finishes in 10 events on the Champions Tour, with a tie for 11th being his best.

Daly is in Prague to play in the Czech Masters on the European Tour. A chain smoker who reportedly still enjoys an occasional beer, Daly made news this week with a promotional stunt in which he tried to drive a ball into a floating keg in the middle of a river.

It was classic John Daly.

Even his competitors are rooting for him to play well. Boeing Classic defending champion Billy Andrade said Daly is great for the tour in that he attracts so much interest and attention.

"It would be great if he could contend more and be able to win some," Andrade said.

But for Daly, just being here is something to celebrate. He told a USA Today reporter in April on his 50th birthday about a wager he had with former Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller.

"Fuzzy said I'd never make it to 50. He said, 'I'll give you $150,000 if you make it to 50.' I told him I'd have to take that bet. I told him I wouldn't be able to pay him if I was dead. I called him the other day and he said, 'That's right. I do remember making that bet.'

"But I'm not going to make him pay. I told him he could give me a free bottle of his vodka."

Daly appreciates his fans as much as they enjoy watching him. He told a Philadelphia reporter this year that he has "the greatest fans in the world."

"I know I've gone through the same things they have because I haven't denied them, and I've always been honest with them. I think that's something I've always believed, that I should be honest with the fans and, of course, the media. When I do wrong, I say I do wrong. I don't have any skeletons in my closet. I let it all out."

It's all part of the John Daly experience.


This article was written by By Scott Hanson from Seattle Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.