The Bridgestone Invitational arrives for its yearly visit to Firestone Country Club next week absent two notable players, Tiger Woods and John Daly. The contrast couldn’t be greater. While the absence of Woods, who has turned Firestone into his own personal playground the last several years, will certainly be noticed, the absence of John Daly is mostly a relief.
Daly, who competed at last weekend’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, has become a bloated car wreck of a person and a player. The fact that he’s mostly an afterthought on the PGA Tour is truly addition by subtraction that most players would gladly admit. He’s been a distraction by any measure and about as poor a representative of pro golf as you can imagine. And that was before the video of him playing shirtless at a Branson, Missouri, course made its predictable trek through the Internet.
There always will be a segment of the population that considers Daly a refreshing alternative to the rather staid, almost automaton nature of most pro golfers. More is the pity because all that mentality does is enable Daly to continue to play the doofus unabated and put off such minor matters as maturity and self-discipline for another day. If you think that’s harsh, consider the unfortunate exhibition he put on in Scotland.
A former two time winner of golf’s oldest championship, Daly tied for last place with a robust 29 over par, a mere 20 strokes from making the cut. It was typical of the kind of display you get from Daly. Anytime he senses futility, he simply gives up, which is about the only way to explain his second round score of 89. Conditions were tough, but Daly still had the highest round in the tournament.
Some will say, as Daly has, that he really shouldn’t have been playing because he’s nursing injuries. Maybe. But then again, if he hadn’t played for that reason how would it explain his playing in the Russian Open in Moscow this week for what is undoubtedly a large appearance fee?
And that’s what is really has become for Daly. He’s not really a professional golfer anymore. He’s rather like a clown one hires for their kid’s birthday party. Instead of playing birthdays, foreign promoters looking to raise the profile of their tournaments hire Daly by pushing a wallet full of money his way to perform his act. He shows up, out of shape and mostly out of his mind.
All this would hardly be noteworthy except that at one time Daly had nearly as much talent as anyone playing the game. His enormous distance off the tee obscured a rather deft short game. He was also personable. In fact, at one time he really was a refreshing alternative to the rather staid, almost automaton nature of most pro golfers. Sadly, that day has long since passed.
To this point, calling Daly’s truncated season a disaster is to praise with faint damning. His scoring average is nearly two strokes a round higher than the tour average, meaning he’s eight strokes behind the average player in every tournament in which he makes the cut. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on perspective, that hasn’t happened all that much. Without official playing status, Daly relies mostly on sponsor exemptions which have been fewer and fewer as sponsors no longer see him and his traveling road show as an attendance draw. What tournaments he has played, his best finish is a tie for 60th. He’s compiled a total of $59,000 in winnings this season in 16 tournaments. That probably isn’t even enough to pay for the gas on the mobile home/merchandise tent he drives from tournament to tournament.
Daly unquestionably has demons, but they extend well beyond his food, alcohol and tobacco addictions. His biggest problem really is his incredible childlike view of the world. It’s not that he’s naïve. He’s just so incredibly steeped in self-denial about virtually any and every topic related to him that it’s almost as if he has no firm grasp of reality.
For an unintentionally humorous confirmation, check out his official website, JohnDaly.com. There you’ll find a variety of Daly-related trinkets, including John Daly-branded apparel. Just guessing, but sales are probably lagging a bit behind the Greg Norman line at the moment. There are also the usual head covers, hats, autographed photos and the like. And with no sense or irony, there’s the line of John Daly wines sporting the tagline “grip it and sip it.” Physician, heal thyself.
To this point, Daly seems either unable or unwilling to do much about his fitness or his game. He did seek out Butch Harmon, one of the game’s most renowned instructors, but was summarily flushed by Harmon because of Daly’s lack of, ahem, commitment toward improving. I’d go into detail, but it hardly matters. It’s like every John Daly story. Part comedy, part tragedy. Daly is now locked in a war of words of sort with Harmon, a war that Daly can’t possibly win. Instead of sparring, he should take Harmon’s words as a final caution before he veers so far off course that his only savior left will be the jaws of life.
What’s to become of Daly from this point forward is anyone’s guess, although if you’re putting money on a turnaround, you better get long odds. Daly seems uniquely unqualified to make a good decision on anything. Indeed, given where he’s headed, if I wrote this column two years from now there’d be a healthy number of readers who’d probably ask “John Daly, wasn’t he someone once?” The answer is, sadly, yes he was.Powered by Sidelines