The Life and Times of John Daly

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 12, 2003, 4:00 pm
2003 PGA ChampionshipROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- Sweat soaked his royal blue shirt and the back of his pants down to his knees as John Daly waited 20 minutes for the tee to clear Tuesday at Oak Hill.
He leaned on his driver, tilted his head against his shoulders and smiled.
What was so funny?
'Life,' he said. 'It's unbelievable sometimes.'
When it comes to the life of John Daly, believe anything.
Imagine a roller coaster that climbs into the clouds and drops into the abyss, with a dozen corkscrew turns along the way.
That doesn't describe his career -- that's one month.
Daly was overjoyed by the July 23 birth of his third child, 'Little John,' his first son. Five days later, his wife and her parents were indicted in a Mississippi federal court on drug and illegal gambling charges.
He says he knew nothing about allegations that his wife was part of a conspiracy to buy and sell cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from 1996 to 2002; or the 47 bank deposits just under $10,000 between 1998 and 2001.
They married in the summer of 2001, seven weeks after they met.
Sherrie Miller Daly is his fourth wife.
'I really don't know anything,' Daly said. 'It hit me like a brick house. I'm more in shock about it than anything.'
He asked everyone to be slow to judge.
'There's been so many ups and downs,' Daly said. 'It's not fair to kick someone down when they've not proven anything. I just have to wait and see what happens.'
The PGA Championship is a magical major for the 37-year-old Daly. He won it in 1991 as the ninth alternate and introduced the golf world to his grip-and-rip-it style, on and off the course.
Perhaps this might be a week to take his mind off the turmoil.
But when Daly arrived at Oak Hill on Tuesday morning, he no longer had a caddie.
He says Mick Collins, who was on the bag during his latest turnaround, told Daly to dump his wife or find another caddie.
'I was in the parking lot waiting for him when he called,' Daly said.
Daly found another caddie.
'It's weird,' he said. 'You find out how many people love you for you. When things are great, you've got all the friends in the world. When something goes bad, they all just ... turn on you.'
Daly isn't about to leave his wife, who faces 20 years in prison on each of the two counts in the indictment. Not yet, anyway.
His wife and son accompanied him to Oak Hill in their customized motor home.
'I might not stick with her if she's guilty,' he said. 'But let's find out first. I just know she's a good mom.'
The frightening thing for Daly is he that he has no idea if he has hit rock bottom. The indictment is only the latest chapter in a book that is hard to fathom.
Two majors in five years. Three ex-wives. Two trips to alcohol rehab.
Does Daly ever wonder why so much controversy visits one guy?
'Every day, man,' he said. 'Every day.'
Still, he remains one of the most popular draws in golf. Daly played nine holes of his practice round behind Tiger Woods, and he and Phil Mickelson still drew an enormous gallery.
As he waited between nines, a young woman talked her way past a marshal and onto the tee to beg Daly for an autograph. He obliged, as always, and she scurried back to the ropes.
'Don't I at least get a hug?' Daly said.
The crowd roared as the woman returned for an embrace. Emboldened, she then asked for a group picture.
'Is there anything else I can do for you?' Daly said.
He has enough problems of his own.
They started not long after Daly won in 1991 at Crooked Stick. He tanked rounds at overseas events where he was given money just for showing up. He was forced off an airplane for confronting a flight attendant while drunk.
Every episode only made him more popular. Along with his behemoth drives, this was guy with whom everyday people could relate. He wasn't perfect, and he admitted it.
After his second stint in alcohol rehab -- following a drinking binge at the 1997 Players Championships -- Daly stayed sober for 30 months.
He resumed drinking in September 1999, giving up $3 million over the final two years of a contract with Callaway Golf. He claimed he was given antidepressants, feeling more like a lab rat than a two-time major winner.
He was happy, and he was determined.
Finishing the 2000 season at No. 507 in the world ranking, he worked hard to bring notoriety to his game, and not just his life. He won the BMW International Open in Germany in 2001, his first victory since the British Open at St. Andrews in 1995.
His game has gone south since then, but Daly had every reason to believe his life was finally stable -- especially after the birth of his son.
Daly picked out the name -- John Patrick Daly.
'We named him after his daddy,' he said.
Then he paused and managed a self-deprecating smile.
'I don't know if the world can handle another one.'
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