Sport Golf

Monday 27 February 2017

Tackling the wild thing

Aided by a 456-page rap-sheet, Karl MacGinty recalls John Daly's uniquely turbulent career

JOHN DALY'S file at US Tour headquarters bulged like an over-stuffed suitcase. Though disciplinary measures taken by the PGA Tour against its members are top secret, Daly's stunning 456-page rap-sheet was made public this week, following his failed libel action against the 'Florida Times-Union'.

It revealed the full extent of the crazy, self-destructive path that 'Wild Thing' has followed through professional golf for 18 years.

That Daly has remained popular with the general public, continues to receive tournament invites and earned an estimated $4m last year off the course is testament to his outrageous ability. And his humility -- unlike the cold, clinical, all-controlling Tiger Woods, Daly's downfall could never be attributed to arrogance.

The poor schmuck almost seems helpless as he stumbles from one life crisis to the next, which probably explains why the PGA Tour has been so incredibly lenient with him down the years. Having met Daly several times, he's always struck me as an ordinary, unremarkable individual who's been burdened by extraordinary talent and cursed with a fearsome thirst.

Yet Daly evokes more empathy from the public than Tiger because he's never for one second believed that he's special. One time he was sitting at a traffic light and the guy in the next car screamed: "I love you John Daly -- I love you because you're the only guy I know who's f****d up his life more than I have."

Urging

Daly's propensity for screwing up was underlined this week when twice on his Twitter site, he revealed the cell-phone number of 'Florida Times-Union' golf writer Garry Smits, urging fans to "bury him with calls" after the journalist had been first to break the news of that 456-page dossier.

Consistent with their controversial non-disclosure policy on disciplinary matters, the Tour declined to comment, but this hugely irresponsible act almost certainly will cost Daly a hefty fine if not another lengthy suspension.

Typically, this all happened when life seemed to be going smoothly for Daly, even if he's been frustrated by his relatively feeble efforts on the course.

Having shed 100lb and enjoying a more sober, stable lifestyle with girlfriend Anna Cladakis, a vivacious former marketing executive at Hooters, Daly still lives in hope of making it back to the top in golf.

Judging by the weight of that disciplinary file at PGA Tour HQ, it's a miracle he's still out there at all. Here's a recap of an eventful life, in numbers:

1 There's only one John Daly and, judging by the staggering 456 pages in his US PGA Tour disciplinary file, officials have good reason to be relieved about that.

2Daly has two Major titles. Sensationally, he won his first, the 1991 US PGA at Crooked Stick, after being called up on the eve of the tournament to replace the injured Nick Price. Daly later beat Costantino Rocca in sudden death at the 1995 British Open at St Andrews.

3It's a measure of Daly's off-course problems that his unworldly talent has yielded just three 'regular' PGA Tour victories -- the 1992 BC Open, 1994 Bell South and 2002 Buick Invitational. Other wins on major Tours include the 1993 Dunhill Cup (with Fred Couples and Payne Stewart); the 2001 BMW International in Europe, plus the 2003 Korean Open in Asia.

4 Catastrophically unlucky in love, Daly has racked up four divorces. His relationship with second wife Bettye ended partly because she turned out to be 10 years older than she'd originally told him. Fourth wife Sherrie was sentenced to five month's prison for pleading guilty to a Federal drugs charge. He has three children, Shynah Hale (17), Sierra Lynn (14) and John Patrick II (6).

5 The most recent of the five suspensions he's received from the Tour was a six-month ban in November 2008 after he had to be taken into protective custody by police when found drunk outside a Hooters restaurant.

6 The number of times Daly has been placed on probation by the Tour.

7 Daly, who admitted he drank 'a fifth' (750ml bottle) of Jack Daniels every day at the age of 23, has been ordered to undergo counselling or enter alcohol rehabilitation on seven occasions by the Tour.

11 According to his disciplinary jacket, Daly has been officially cited 11 times for "conduct unbecoming a professional". The first was in April 1991 when he cursed at a playing partner during a PGA event.

21 The number of times Daly has been disciplined by the Tour for "failing to give his best efforts", most famously when he continually pumped balls into a water hazard at the par-five sixth at Bay Hill during the Arnold Palmer Invitational, resulting in a hole score of 18.

29 The paltry number of official PGA Tour events Daly has played since his US playing credentials expired at the end of 2007. He survived the cut just seven times in that period (including the Mayakoba Classic a fortnight ago). Yet Daly has fared better in Europe, where he tied second at last year's Italian Open, his first top-10 anywhere in four years.

43Daly's age -- he was born in Carmichael, California, on April 28, 1966.

50 The number of pages in the disciplinary file devoted to two specific incidents. In one, at the 2005 US Open in Pinehurst, Daly was accused by a law enforcement officer of nearly running him down at a security checkpoint. The Tour reached a verdict of "mistaken identity", despite witness statements from four other officers identifying him as the driver. The other occurred at the 1994 World Series of Golf at Firestone, when tempers flared after Daly allegedly hit into a group including club pro Jeff Roth. Family members in the gallery became involved and Daly was accused of directing profanities at Roth's mother. Later, Roth confronted Daly in the locker-room and as he left, witnesses said Daly called Roth's mother a derogatory name, prompting her husband to jump him from behind. They scuffled. Daly was fined $20,000 and ordered to take a leave of absence from Tour for the remainder of 1994.

100 Since undergoing 'lap-band' surgery last year to limit the amount of food he can eat, Daly says he's lost at least 100lb (7st 2lb) in weight and is down to "a slim, trim, 185lb (13st 3lb)".

306.8 The average distance, in yards, Daly drove his golf ball in 2002, when he last topped the US long-driving charts. For 12 out of 13 years from 1991, 'Wild Thing' was the biggest hitter on Tour. Though he's hit it further in recent times, driving his ball an average 312.9 yards in 2007 for example, Daly's been surpassed by big boomers like Bubba Watson.

435 Daly's current position in the world ranking.

30,000 The biggest single fine, in dollars, Daly has paid -- in 1993 for blasting drives over fans cowering in the stand behind the practice ground during a clinic he gave at The Fred Meyer Challenge in Oregon. He's also been fined for teeing up his ball on a full beer can in a pro-am.

272,000 A Florida judge last year threw out a libel action by Daly against the 'Florida Times-Union', making an order of $272,000 costs against him. The paper had forced the PGA Tour to release his disciplinary file under subpoena and when Daly decided not to appeal, the 456-page dossier entered the public domain.

60m In his 2006 autobiography, Daly admitted gambling between $50m and $60m in 15 years. He lost $1.5m in one visit to Las Vegas in October 2005, twice the $750,000 cheque he'd earned after taking Tiger all the way to sudden death in the Am-Ex World Championship the previous afternoon. Daly has won $12m-plus prize-money around the world yet he's been a far bigger earner off the course. Even last year, he earned $4m from sponsorship and other endorsements, helping keep his "exes in Rolexes".

Irish Independent

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