Whither John Daly?

By: Jim Moore

I still like John Daly, just not as much as I used to. There was a time when I loved Daly and couldn't get enough of him. But I've gone from idolizing him to wondering about him now.

I don't want it to get any worse. I don't want to dislike Daly, but the lovable oaf has got to quit acting like a buffoon.

For those of us who enjoy drinking and golfing, that's part of our attraction to Daly. Plus he's so un-PGA Tour, aside from those long drives and soft hands of his. His whole rumpled blue-collar act in that button-down world is a beautiful thing.

But there are limits to craziness, and Daly has reached them in the mind of the tour, which suspended him for six months. Daly's not sure when the ban started or when it ends, and the tour doesn't discuss this stuff publicly. Daly thinks he will be reinstated in May.

He was suspended for a grab-bag of reasons:

* Spending a rain delay at the PODS Championship in the Hooters tent and emerging with ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden as his caddie.

* Hitting a drive off a beer can during the pro-am at the Buick Open.

* Promoting a course in Missouri wearing only a white cap and blue jeans, shirtless and shoeless, his bare gut exposed to the world on You Tube.

* Getting detained by the Winston-Salem police after being found in a drunken stupor outside of a local Hooters.

So Daly hit for the cycle and then rounded the bases again in Australia in December, taking a fan's camera and smashing it against a tree. In his defense, it sounded like the fan, while snapping pictures, got awfully close to Daly, who was no doubt frustrated when his tee shot found the trees.

After damaging the camera, Daly told Brad Clegg that he'd get him a new one, but Clegg told an Australian newspaper: "I don't think I'll be chasing him for the money. He's a big bloke."

A big bloke who had already become a big joke to Butch Harmon last spring. One of the game's finest swing gurus worked with Daly but decided he couldn't help him if he couldn't help himself.

In one of the more memorable quotes of the year, Harmon quit working with Daly because "the most important thing in (his) life is getting drunk."

Too often, Daly has proven that to be a fact. His mug shot from the night in Winston-Salem made the rounds on the Internet (http://www.bittenandbound.com/2008/10/29/john-daly-arrested-at-hooters-held-in-24-hour-detox-mugshot/), once again showing that Daly has had too many cocktails too many times.

As a sportswriter in Seattle, I have interviewed Daly three or four times. He has always been cordial and accommodating. I wrote about him as often as I could because he's such an interesting and offbeat character.

A few years ago in Banff at the Telus Canadian Skins Game, I asked him about his sex life. I did this for a reason. He had just written about his huge appetite for sex in his book "My Life in and Out of the Rough."

I can't remember what I asked exactly, and it was a bit awkward because it wasn't a one-on-one interview - it was at a news conference with Sergio Garcia, Greg Norman, Jack Nicklaus and Stephen Ames listening in.

I think it was along the lines of: "So John, why did you feel the need to tell us about your sex life with your wife?"

He was candid as ever, saying he wanted to completely reveal himself, and his huge sex drive is part of who he is. But frankly, that visual was too much to take, and must have been for my editor, too - he killed the story, causing me to scramble on deadline and write a column about Norman instead.

In 2005, I happened upon Daly by chance. My brother-in-law and I were in Augusta for the Masters and decided to stop at Hooters for a beer on the way back to our motel. Lo and behold, there was Daly, about to sign a sponsorship agreement with Hooters that would give him who-knows-how-much money along with free food and booze for life at any Hooters location. This deal might have haunted him in Winston-Salem. But for a columnist, it was a thank-you-Jesus coincidence.

Daly signed the deal on a paper towel. Hooters chairman Bob Brooks called Daly a "perfect spokesperson," and the perfect spokesperson proceeded to buy 100 Miller Lites for bar patrons, and I partook of one myself. After drinking with his fans, Daly went out to his trailer and hawked his John Daly goods.

Two years later, Daly was back in that trailer, selling more "Grip it and Rip it" merchandise. For the first time, I looked at him differently. It's one thing to be selling your goods when you're playing in the tournament, but an entirely different thing when you're not. He was there to make a buck, which is fine, but it still seemed weird

That's when my affinity for Daly began to wane. Don't get me wrong - I'd still rather watch him if he's 10 strokes behind than Justin Leonard if he's 10 strokes ahead. But if Daly isn't careful, he'll soon become a clown in this traveling circus. Or worse, nonexistent. Even when the suspension ends, Daly doesn't have his card and must rely on sponsor's exemptions. Surely some tournament directors will still buy tickets to his freak show, but he's got to get it together on and off the course or pretty soon no one will want him around anymore.

Daly stands at the 18th crossroads of his career, or maybe it's his 50th; there've been so many, I've lost track. He's 42, or 62 in John Daly years. At this point, the two-time major championship winner looks like he'll never hoist another trophy.

He missed the cut in all three Australian events he has played in this winter and is 113th on the European Tour, showing glimpses of his past greatness at the UBS Hong Kong Open in November, finishing tied for 17th at 9-under par. Daly has earned more than $9 million on the PGA Tour, but only $56,000 and change last year, missing the cut in 12 of 17 events.

You've got to hope that during his time away he's taking measures to straighten up. But given his past, you've got to believe that won't happen. You're more apt to read that his wife cut him with a steak knife again than to read that he graduated with honors from the Betty Ford Clinic.

His agent, Bud Martin, told AP that Daly made a New Year's resolution to clean up his act. "I hope he can walk the walk," Martin said.

I do too. It's time, time for John Daly to quit being a sideshow and start being a respectable attraction again.

Jim Moore is a sports columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He's a 51-year-old 12-handicapper with a pair of 4-year-old sons who love golf too. Jim believes that the most necessary element on all golf courses is the presence of a beverage-cart girl, preferably two, one for the front side and one for the back. Jim is a mental midget who got so sick of his left wrist breaking down on the greens that he now putts one-handed.

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