Friday, February 8, 2008

Daly's act has become a one-note samba

I’ve known and liked John Daly for a long time. I can easily understand the public’s fascination with him. He is what many of his fans would be if they could hit the ball 320-yards off every tee. John had better hope that ability never leaves him, because when it does, they’ll drop him in a New York minute.

JD’s act has become a one-note samba. He shows up on a sponsor’s exemption (his world ranking is in the 500s) on Tuesday. He leaves sometime on Friday after he withdraws with some type of injury. He says it is related to a rib/shoulder injury he suffered when a woman at the Honda Classic snapped a picture in mid-swing and he tried to stop his swing. I’m hardly one to talk, but he might fare better physically if he dropped a little avoirdupois off that frame. He’s a big boy, but his weight is challenging his average driving distance and winning.

He announced that he was finally going to get some help—with his swing, that is. He wanted some tutelage from noted instructor Butch Harmon with whom he shares a role with in Winn Grip TV commercials. It appeared that Daly might be serious and start really working on his game. I saw Butch at the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando and asked about Daly’s tutorials. The answer was a lateral nod of the head and a quiet, “we’ll see.”

In 2007, he made nine of 24 cuts, missed the cut 10 times and withdrew six times. That’s right he withdrew once after making the cut. His efforts earned him $248,501 for the year. To you and me, that’s a nice year. If you’re driving a bus to each tournament that doesn’t cover much more than the fuel. Add in an occasional heavy gambling loss when the bus turns itself into a casino parking lot and it’s not much of a year at all.

Of course, Daly does supplement his income. He sells memorabilia out of his bus in the Hooters parking lot closest to the tournament site. Hooters does keep him on retainer, which might explain some of his weight problems. A constant diet of fried chicken wings, cheeseburgers and curly fries does tend to stay on the hips. At least he has the good sense to drink Diet Coke and Miller Lite beer, albeit in copious quantities. I just get the feeling that if you stuck a pin in his stomach, he’d gush grease.

Thus far, this season, John has played even in three tournaments. I’m not talking about even par. He’s made one cut, the Sony for $9,805 (T69). He’s withdrawn once (The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and missed one cut (the Buick Invitational).

Even though he’s demonstrated an inability to play as well as a lack of stamina to last through a tournament, you can bet tournament directors will be more than willing to pencil him in on their dance card. Why, you ask?

The legitimate draws are playing less and less. When the Tour fell all over themselves about the FedEx Cup, they lessened the number of tournaments the top 20 players on Tour will play. This leaves many events wanting. They’re getting a lower quality field, but the purses keep increasing. If you can’t get quality, get golfer-turned-sideshow John Daly. He’ll draw crowds for at least a day.

In his best days, John was loved almost as much for his excesses as his skills. That scale is tipping away from his skills. Just think, when Daly was at his best and still living the lifestyle that could best be described as hard, Tiger Woods was asked if he could play as well living the Daly lifestyle? “No,” said Tiger. “I don’t have his talent.”

That’s the John Daly he has to find again. That’s the John Daly everyone loved and admired. He has to find a way to become relevant again. Like everyone else, I want him to succeed

There’s a lingering fear that Daly is heading towards becoming Anthony Quinn’s Luis “Mountain” Rivera in the 1962 movie “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” It’s not fun watching him fall, but there’s always hope.

Hey barkeep, how about pouring me another Miller De-Lite? On second thought, make it a Diet Coke. I know I can’t keep up with JD in consuming either, but I can drink the soda without the Daly-esque habit of using it to wash down a couple of bags of M&Ms (I’ve always wondered about that). The belt was a little tight this morning.

See you on the first tee.