by John Furgele
I really can’t believe what I read. This week, John Daly’s six month PGA suspension comes to an end, and as usual, there have been several columns trumpeting his return. Among the descriptors, “he is a draw, “he has appeal,” “he brings a spark to the PGA tour,” and “he is the everyman.” While Daly does do that, the fact that he gets hyped up is beyond comprehension.
I hate to say this, but John Daly is a low-life, a loser, and is not good for the game for the golf or the PGA tour. Maybe that is a bit strong, perhaps too strong. Unlike other pro athletes, he didn’t kill anybody, drive drunk and injure anybody or electrocute dogs because they didn’t do well in a fighting ring, so maybe I am being a bit too harsh on the insecure and childlike Daly.
Daly is admired because he is a fearless player. When people describe him, they often use the term “grip it and rip it,” as he drives the ball 300 plus yards. In 1991, he was the ninth alternate and he drove through the night to play in the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick and shocked the golf world by winning a major title. Four years later, at Royal St. Andrews, he did something that was even more unexpected: he validated his first major title by winning the British Open in a four hole playoff no less.
As fearless as he is on the course, he is fearful off it. The drinking problems, the marital problems, the arrests and most importantly, the arrogance he shows toward these problems are his cross to bear. He admits he is an alcoholic, yet he brags about continuing to drink. He brags about his sex life, the three packs of cigarettes he smokes and the case of Diet Coke he drinks each day. This is a man who lived in excess, yet thumbs his nose at those who wish he would get help, real help. This is a man who after finishing rehab celebrates by going to a bar.
Daly is going through his third divorce and he strikes me as a guy who meets a woman on Thursday and marries her on Sunday. There is a good chance that he will marry again, and a better chance that he will divorce again, yet America roots for this man because he plays with reckless abandon on the PGA Tour.
He is lauded for being a regular guy, but dogs it in tournaments. He has walked off the course and quit, and has shot 16s, 14s and 11s for individual holes. He has almost as many rounds in the 80s as he does in the 60s. When out of contention, he’ll play 18 holes in two hours than brag about with a drink afterwards.
Despite all this negativity, he remains an intriguing character. He is 43, and this is probably his final chance to right himself and to give golf an honest chance, perhaps the first time in his career. There will be people rooting for him. These people say that he reminds them of themselves, but most 40 year olds I know are not professional golfers, do not smoke three packs a day and do not have the issues that John Daly has.
I will remain neutral on John Daly. I won’t root for him; I won’t root against him. I also don’t care if he gets his life in order or wins another major title. John Daly is John Daly, and that’s both a comedy and a tragedy.