Off the Fringe
THE life of pro golfer John Daly has been the stuff of legend since he drove all night to become the ninth and last alternate in the 1991 PGA Championship. Arriving out of nowhere, at a course called Crooked Stick, Daly won in a walk and without benefit of a practice round.
Daly has taken control
of life and his game
In the decade since, Daly has become one of sport's most popular but troubled stars. Although he has won seven times, including a second major championship at the 1995 British Open, he has made more news off the course than on it and become golf's equivalent of Mike Tyson.
After a five-year tailspin, a new John Daly has emerged, one whose self-control seems to match his prodigious power and deft touch.
Within the last year, Daly has moved from a distant 507th in the World Golf Rankings into the top 50. In 2001, he won his first tournament in six years, the European Tour's BMW International Open, had four top-10 finishes in the U.S. and pocketed a career high $824,914 in official earnings.
He is 16th on the 2002 PGA Tour money list, following two top 10 finishes in the Phoenix Open and Buick Invitational. He is now closing in on an invitation to the Masters at Augusta in April, a course that perfectly suits his game.
It's been quite a turnaround for a golfer whose "grip-it-and-rip-it" swing was matched only by his lifestyle.
Daly has been addicted to booze, gambling, cigarettes and anti-depressants. On the course, he has dropped out of matches, tossed clubs, argued with rules officials and gotten into a fistfight with an elderly spectator.
Off the course, he has trashed hotel rooms, abused alcohol, and been in and out of rehab clinics. Altogether, he has lost three wives and an estimated $10 million at the gaming tables. The PGA Tour has suspended him three times for his behavior.
Two years ago, however, Daly made a decision.
He quit taking the anti-depressants that made him feel like a zombie and walked out of a Betty Ford clinic, turning his back on a $3 million dollar endorsement deal with Callaway that required him to stick with his rehab program.
Tired of being told how to live, Daly announced he would do it his way. He was going to control his drinking and gambling, he said, not give them up entirely.
Of course, everyone laughed and told him he was fooling himself.
But thus far, Daly has proven good on his promise.
Now 35 and happily married to his fourth wife, Sherrie Miller, whom he credits with helping him purge his mental demons, Daly professes to be happier and more stable than at any other time in his life.
"I get up now about the same time I used to get in," he has been quoted as saying. "Everything is so good in my life now I can concentrate on golf. I'm late in maturing."
Daly seems to have taken control of his life. But ironically, in order to do that he has had to learn to control himself.
Can he keep it up? Only time will tell. But if he succeeds, perhaps there's hope for even Mike Tyson.
Grady Timmons has been writing about golf in Hawaii for 25 years and playing it even longer. He can be reached at email@example.com