John Daly and Fred Couples highlight the Chubb Classic field

John Daly
USA Today Sports Images
John Daly laughs with members of his group at the Chubb Classic pro-am this week.
By
Greg Hardwig
Naples Daily News, Fla.

Series: Champions Tour

Published: Friday, February 17, 2017 | 2:48 p.m.

Fred Couples and John Daly have a lot in common. Major championship winners, good nicknames -- "Boom, Boom" and "Long John Daly" -- and a style all their own.

Add that together, and they appeal to true golf fans, casual golf fans, and not-so-casual ones. That figures to be the case starting Friday when they both play in the Chubb Classic at The TwinEagles Club.

"Everybody loves Freddie," three-time Chubb Classic champion Bernhard Langer said Thursday where the 30th anniversary event starts Friday. "They love the way he walks and the way he swings and the way he looks. He's got a lot of females following him maybe, I don't know. And he's just easy to be around, really.

"And John Daly, they love him. He's a little different. Grips it, rips it, hits it further than most humans ever think possible. So he brings something different to the table and that's great to have diversity. It's what we used to have in other people, too. (Lee) Trevino was always talking and telling stories and stuff like that and Chi Chi (Rodriguez) was doing his thing. So we always had people that stood out, but just their personalities and how they are -- and that's a good thing. If we were all the same it would be terrible."

Couples and Daly are anything but that.

WATCH: Fred Couples and John Daly play a classic Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match

 

 

What they do have in common is a tenuous spot in the current golf world.

Couples, 57, said Thursday he refuses to go play if he's going to be "mediocre" and with his troublesome back, that day could be sooner rather than later. He missed nine months last year when it flared up again.

"I want to play well, otherwise I would not be out here," Couples said. "If I can't -- even if I finish 40th this week, but if I hit the ball well and something happens -- but to not play well or this is too much work. ... I physically am not healthy enough to play 20 events.so there's no reason for me to because it could end today on the seventh hole and be out another five months, and I'm not doing that anymore. It's a waste of time.

"It's one of those things. Everybody out here has something (they're dealing with physically) but ofr me, if I don't feel right, I can barely hit the ball."

When Couples does eventually hang up his spikes, he hopes to start a charitable foundation since he'll have the time to devote to it, and then just enjoy life.

"It's a complete grind and I just don't know why I would retire at 60 and continue to grind," he said. "I don't have that personality. So it will be normal stuff -- walk around at the mall, have lunch, chip a few, hit a few. And then next thing you know it's 4 p.m. and it's dark in the wintertime. I mean, there's a couple West Coast tournaments, but I don't want to fly five hours to be mediocre. And that could happen -- that can happen fast. But right now I feel really strong and I feel like I'm playing really well for not playing a whole lot."

Daly, 51, started having sciatic nerve problems in his back -- he said his SI joint popped back in -- last week in the second round of the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton. He soldiered through seven holes of the final round, but made headlines when he tossed his putter and it ended up in the water. Daly explained Wednesday and again Thursday it was simply an unfortunate incident, that he'd tossed it as he has before toward his caddie, but Daly didn't realize his caddie's hands were full and the putter sailed past him, hit the ground, then bounced over into the water.

RELATED: John Daly says reports of putter thrown into lake are exaggerated

"If I'm going to throw a putter, I'm going to throw it 60 yards into the lake and it's going to be in two pieces," Daly said. "But that was a special putter to me. It was a Ping putter that John Solheim gave to me. It was the 50th anniversary (model). I would have never done that on purpose. That was just a freak accident. My fault -- I didn't know Peter (his caddie) had all of that crap in his hand."

The water was six feet down from the green so Daly asked the head professional to have someone get the putter, but a spectator already had grabbed it.

"I'd like to have it back if I could get it back," Daly said. "That was a nice gift that John gave me."

Daly would like the gift of a PGA Tour Champions victory "badly" but realizes that will be difficult.

"This is harder to win out here than any other tour," Daly said. "I don't care if it's 78 guys or whatever. These guys, their wedge game and their putters are just as good as anybody else's. And that's what this game is out here on the Champions Tour. It's all about the wedges and the putter."

And that's part of why Daly hasn't played well.

"My wedge game isn't where it needs to be and the putter has just been cold," he said.

Otherwise, though, Daly has been enjoying himself -- and the fans.

"It's not as rowdy, but I think it's more or less it's going to be an older crowd," he said. "But they know golf. They're not going to clap for a bad shot. They'll clap for a good one, but if you hit one bad, it's almost like playing in Europe -- they know a good shot when you hit a good shot, but if you hit a bad one, they're not going to clap for you."

While Couples isn't going to stay on the tour to play mediocre, in some respects, the fact Daly's made it to age 50 and this tour is something in itself. Years ago, Fuzzy Zoeller made a bet that if the hard-living Daly lived that long, he'd pay him $150,000. Daly didn't get that, but Zoeller did give him something.

"He gave me a big bottle of his vodka and he made a good point," Daly said. "He said 'If you would have died, you wouldn't have been able to pay me anyway, so here."

While Daly did earn his reputation through his drinking, smoking and gambling, he said he's not as big a party guy as everyone thinks.

"I'm a little bit more healthy than people think," he said. "I probably smoke too much, but everything's so exaggerated in my life. I do drink a little bit, but I'm not one of the guys that drinks every day. ... It's not like what people perceive it to be. Out here, it's just laid back. It's just a lot more fun." ___