There’s no arguing that golf-wise, John Daly is yesterday’s news. The two-time major champion hasn’t won on tour since 2004. He hasn’t posted a top 10 in a major since winning The Open Championship at St. Andrews in 1995. If not for the exemptions handed out to him by tournament sponsors in search of marquee names, JD’s PGA career would long be over.
But if the golf game of Long John, who is now 48, is forever gone, his ability to spin meltdowns into priceless entertainment lives on. Here’s to hoping those sponsors’ exemptions keep on coming.
Daly’s latest, shall we say, incident, came last Friday at the Tour’s annual stop at the Innisbrook Copperhead course, a bit north of Tampa. On the 16th, a difficult par 4, Daly drove into the water on the right. After drops, he dunked two more balls. Once he managed to get near the green, Daly chunked a chip then sculled a bunker shot en route to a 12. His score for the day was 90 – the highest in a career that has been filled with spectacularly large numbers. After the round, Daly told reporters that he tried on every shot.
I’m going to take John at his word. He’s always been known for being straightforward. But as a general rule, through his career JD has perfected the art of the “I No Longer Give A Crap, Give-up, Meltdown” and it’s been awfully fun to watch. As Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner noted in a column last week, Daly has now carded 62 rounds of 80 or higher in his PGA career. He has withdrawn from 38 events. Sixteen times he has needed at least 10 shots to complete a hole, including his famous 18 on the par 5 6th hole at Bay Hill in 1998, when, with Tin Cup-like determination, he hit six straight 3-woods into the water in a desperate attempt to prove he could have gotten home in two.
The statistics above don’t even capture JD’s withdrawals and sky high scores in European Tour events, or on other world golf tours. In this notorious incident at the 2011 Australian Open, for example, he dismissively hit seven straight shots into the water before walking off the course.
But though through his long golfing career Daly has generally been known to quietly implode rather than loudly explode, he’s definitely had his share of amusing traditional tantrums. Here are a few of my favorites:
– In the final round of the 1994 World Series of Golf at Firestone, Daly twice hit into the group of club pro Jeff Roth ahead of him en route to an 83. Jeff’s father Bob didn’t take kindly to the unsporting gesture. He confronted Daly near the proshop, which led to a fight. The crowd eventually separated Daly, then 28, and Roth, then 62, as they wrestled on the ground.
– In the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Daly chose not to wait as his putt from off the crowned 8th green began rolling back to his feet. Instead, he walked toward the ball and swatted it as it was in motion. Daly’s 11 on the hole contributed mightily to his 83 that day. After the round he offered scathing criticism of the USGA and the course setup, then proclaimed, “I don’t consider the U.S. Open a major anymore.”
– At the Australian Open in 2008, Daly smashed the camera of a fan who had been distracting him all day. Entertainingly, the tournament director defended the maneuver as justified.
But for all his follies, failures and just plain-old bad golf, Daly still has that 1991 PGA title and that 1995 Open victory at St. Andrews. That means that in a couple years’ time, when JD joins the Champions Tour, he’ll be more than qualified to walk past the likes of the majorless Colin Montgomerie in the locker room, shake his head, and sarcastically say, “Nice career Colin.”