The John Daly Freakshow


Big JD isn’t dead — at least not yet. But everyone seems to expect that is the next step.

Yes, John Daly has immense talent, but he long ago passed the point of being a circus sideshow. For a while golf fans seemed to want to watch Daly — and have sponsors offer exemptions into their tournaments — just to see the game’s wild child. He was entirely unpredictable. He could get the shakes in Vancouver, win in San Diego, and then withdraw more often than a teenager in the back of a car with its windows steamed.

But I don’t ever actually remember things getting this low. Not when he admitted in his autobiography to losing millions gambling or discussing the sex life of his ex-wives, including the one that step thousands on lap dances while hanging with John. Not when Callaway dumped him because he wouldn’t stop gambling and drinking. Not even when he was dragged into the stunt of trying to hit golf balls over Niagara Falls until the sweat poured down his face. It wasn’t exactly the high point for a former British Open winner, whoring himself out like a circus freak.

Things seem to be disintegrating now — and you wonder what comes first: the bottom of this spiral, or Daly’s unfortunate demise?

Daly has been making news disproportionate to his ability to play the game lately, but truthfully that’s been a regular occurrence for the last few years. Without a tour card, he’s forced to ask for sponsor’s exemptions and Arnold Palmer graciously offered him one this week at Bay Hill. And yes, it is the same Bay Hill where Daly once made an 18 on a par-5.

First there was the news from Butch Harmon’s camp that the swing doctor had given up on Daly. The bomber had turned to Harmon at the start of the year in the hopes of resurrecting his career, but Butch says drinking and lack of commitment necessitated a change. Like most of Daly’s relationships with his wives, the Harmon arrangement had a best-before date:

“My whole goal for him was he’s got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life,” Harmon said. “And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”

Harmon’s decision follows Daly’s decision to return with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden on his bag after a rain delay. The next day, after shooting 80, Daly hung out in a Hooter’s tent, signing autographs (including a women’s ass, or at least the backside of her jeans), eating plenty of fried food and pounding a few Buds. He even spoke to a reporter, detailing his alcohol intake. You can catch the audio and some great photos here.

Harmon then turfed him and yesterday Daly failed to show up for his pro-am spot even after being offered an exemption into the tournament. It looks like he’s trying even the patience of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem these days:

“It is on the one hand something that makes him very endearing to fans, because he is perhaps the ultimate come-from-behind, blue-collar, upstart kind of situation with all of these challenges,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “On the other hand, we have certain conduct that we have to maintain, and we’ll continue to try to do that. We’ve worked with John in the past, and we’ll continue to be available to work with him in the future regarding his issues.”

Chances aren’t good that Finchem will do much of anything. Daly, for some unknown reason, is still a draw and if we’ve learned anything from the Michelle Wie situation, it is that sponsors will continue to hand out exemptions to those that bring in dollars, even if their play doesn’t warrant one.

Apparently you can do just about anything on a golf course and be forgiven. But even Daly knows he may have crossed the line this time. He angered the king.

“Hasn’t been a good day,” Daly told The Associated Press. “This is the last thing I needed in my life. I feel like I let Arnold down.”

Arnie wasn’t the only one PO’d by Daly’s DQ. He also caused headaches for the alternates in the field:

“And the thing that upsets me is I cost Nick O’Hern and Ryuji Imada, so now I got these guys mad at me, too,” Daly said.

Imada and O’Hern were alternates for the pro-am, and both thought they were assigned to the afternoon group. Instead, they were the first two names called when Daly didn’t show, and when neither was around, they also were disqualified from the $5.8 million event.

O’Hern lives only five minutes away at Isleworth and was furious to learn he would not be eligible.

“When I should have been on the tee, I was giving my girls breakfast,” O’Hern said. “I thought common sense would have prevailed. This is a tough one to take. Unfortunately, we got caught up in John’s snowball effect.”

Daly’s take on the whole thing? Apparently someone is to blame, but it ain’t him:

“My life is upside-down right now,” Daly said. “No matter what I do, it’s wrong. I’m thinking of writing a new song. I’ll call it, ‘I guess it’s my fault, even when it’s not my fault.'”

But it is Daly’s fault and it is time someone expected some degree of responsibility out of him. Even Phil Mickelson seemed ready to give Daly another shot: “I hope things get better,” Phil Mickelson said. “I think we all do.”

Maybe Phil is right in hoping Daly gets better, but I for one have had enough of the sideshow. Close down the tent, this circus is over.

Writer’s Note: My initial title for this blog was John Daly RIP. But I slept on that one and changed it this morning. I still think this is going to come to a bad end, but thought the title a touch over the top. The writing in the post is the same.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Every Man’s Burden is Heaviest. If you are going to play, you must pay. And This is Just another example of Teeing it High and Letting it Fly.

    So it now turns to survival of the fittest, or burning out instead of rusting.

    John just needs the wisdom of the herb.

  • Having walked in similar shoes to JD I can only hope today will be a good day and tomorrow better. While it is busy,distressful,confusing,angering and insane a person gets hooked on the jazz!!! I for one see JD as a breath of fresh air compared to TF’s controlled clones. As he recovers there will come a day when the Sinatra tune ” My Way” will have an impact on all the beige people out there. JD, keep your eye on the prize, it is a tough tourney to win but very rewarding when we finally make it. Oh yea, we never do make it. It is a journey man, a long hard journey, but very cool.

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