ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Playing in wind gusting so hard it was tough to keep a cigarette lit, John Daly made another big move on the British Open leaderboard Friday – backwards.
A day after matching his best round at the British Open, golf’s favorite sideshow stormed off the Old Course after shooting a 4-over 76.
And yet he’s not even completely out of it. At 2 under for the tournament, he’s 10 strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen. But he’s only five behind Mark Calcavecchia and four strokes behind the group at 6 under.
Daly is perhaps golf’s most colorful figure – and it’s not because of those garish pants he sports. (He broke out the hot pink paisley for the second round, pairing them with a lime green cap and a shirt that was just a shade quieter. Not to be outdone, his girlfriend wore leggings that matched his pants.)
That Daly is a unique talent has never been in question. You don’t go from last alternate to major champion, as he did at the 1991 PGA Championship, without considerable game. And you sure don’t win a second major – the British Open at St. Andrews, no less – by being lucky.
But his nickname was “Wild Thing,” and he did his best to live up to it. He has four ex-wives, and he ate, drank and gambled to excess. He’s been suspended by the PGA Tour five times, and fined $100,000.
At 44, the toll of his hard living etched on his face, even Daly seems to have had enough of his high-wire act. He’s lost almost 100 pounds since having Lap-Band surgery in February 2009, and said he quit drinking. He’s working on his game again now that rib and back injuries have healed.
The work showed on Thursday, when he took advantage of the mild morning conditions to shoot a 66 that left him three strokes off the lead in a tie for third. As Tom Watson likes to say, though, what the course gives one day it will take the next, and St. Andrews sure did that.
Not even Daly’s booming shots could overcome wind that forced a one-hour weather delay because of gusts of 41 mph.
After making just one bogey in the first round, he had two before he made the turn Friday. He made another two before getting his first birdie, on the par-5 14th, and then bogeyed No. 17. He drove into a valley just off the left side of the 18th green, and ran it within 5 feet for what looked like a gimme birdie to salvage the rough day.
The ball slid along the side of the cup and refused to drop, though, forcing Daly to settle for par. He shook hands with his playing partners and then hustled away, not even giving Open media officials an opportunity to ask if he’d talk.