The Skinny on Big John

By Mercer BaggsJanuary 25, 2006, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the second of a two-part series (Read Part 1) on fan favorite John Daly. Daly's new series The Daly Planet airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on The Golf Channel.
Its 8:42 a.m. L.A. time and John Daly smokes his first cigarette. At least its the first one that Ive seen him smoke. Hes sitting at a small, circular table outside of Tribune Studios, waiting for entrance into the offices of ESPN Hollywood.
Hes with his wife Sherrie, who is sporting a wedding ring the size of a Chicken McNugget and is wearing a studded belt that reads Mrs. Daly, as well as his 6-year-old son Austin.
John Daly
John Daly missed the cut in his first event of '06, the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Champ.
John is there, along with a Golf Channel film crew, to promote his reality show on TGC, The Daly Planet.' Im there to chronicle his media tour in the City of Angels.
John, of course, is no angel. John knows this. Everyone else knows this. John knows that everyone else knows this. Because of this, John feels that he has nothing to hide, which is one of the reasons he agreed to do what's thus far been an eight-month tag along.
Ive got no skeletons in my closet, he tells me.
He goes on to say, Its something thats different and that no golfers done. People can really see what really goes on in the career of a golfer. I dont know if Im the first athlete to do something like this or not, but hopefully it will open the doors for not just golf, but maybe some of the football players, some of the NBA, maybe the major league baseball players.
It lets the public realize that, hey, its not the most glamorous lifestyle. Its not as glamorous as people might think it is ' the traveling, not being with your kids. I wouldnt trade it for the world, but its more hectic than people might think it is.
Being that this is the first time that Ive had any up-close and personal interaction with Daly off of the golf course, I thought that Id do more observing than talking. I thought about doing a cigarette count for the day or maybe track his cola intake. But I quickly changed my mind.
These things we already know about Daly. We know he smokes like tires at a drag race and that 25 percent of his blood is actually Diet Coke. These things we know, so it really serves no purpose harping on them, I thought.
We know these things just like we know of all his past transgressions: the drinking and the gambling and the divorces. So, again, why belabor the issue?
As Daly is sitting and waiting to do the first of four promotional shows this Tuesday, I get a chance to sit next to him and interview him before he gets saturated with questions over the course of the day and gets locked into R.A.M. ' Repetitive Answer Mode.
After a couple of questions of my own, however, the interview turns more into a conversation, a casual chat. It turns into an opportunity to get to know more about John Daly ' more than what we already know.
Thats a large part of what this reality show is all about. Sure, there is plenty of drinking and cussing and blue moments ' and that doesnt even come close to including all of the stuff that hit the edit room floor, but there are other things, like his charitable works and him playing with his kids and the constant, beleaguering travel.
This Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET The Golf Channel will air Episode 2 which features Daly playing in the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews. It marked the 10-year anniversary of Dalys triumph at St. Andrews; something Daly called his greatest golfing achievement.
Nothing against (winning) the (1991) PGA, but to hear a guy like Jack Nicklaus say that if youve won at the home of golf, St. Andrews, the British Open, that your career is pretty complete - thats incredible, Daly said in our conversation. And thats coming from a guy that won 20 majors (18 professional and two U.S. Amateurs). If youve won at St. Andrews then youve pretty much had an unbelievable golf career.
All things being equal, Daly said that he is just as fond of his PGA victory as he is of his second major championship. The difference lies in the venues ' Crooked Stick vs. St. Andrews ' and is measured in historical significance.
I think had it been anywhere else, at any other British Open, it still would have been very special, but not like at St. Andrews, the home of golf, he said.
The 2006 season will be Dalys 16th on the PGA Tour. He will begin his campaign this week in La Jolla, Calif., home to the Buick Invitational, which happens to be the site of his most recent tour triumph in 2004.
That Buick victory was just the fifth of Dalys tour career and his first since the 95 British. Daly freely admits that he should have won more. And there are several reasons as to why he has not, most of which involve his own doings. You only have to look back to a year ago to find a couple of examples.
At the Shell Houston Open, he lost to Vijay Singh in a playoff when he drove his tee shot into the water on the first hole of sudden death. He then lost in another playoff six months later, this time to Tiger Woods at the WGC-American Express Championship, when he missed a 3-foot par putt on the second extra hole.
But these are just a pair of missed opportunities ' opportunities that have been few and far between. The biggest reason why Daly has only one tour win over the last decade involves the 'C' word.
'Consistency,' he says. Theres no doubt I havent won what I should have. The difference is consistency. I was never very consistent over the first part of my career, but I feel like Ive been much more consistent over the last two years.
Over the last two seasons, Daly has recorded 14 top-25 finishes and seven top-10s. Those numbers are equal to his figures in those two departments over the previous four years combined.
In 2004, he was 21st on the money list, thanks in large part to his playoff victory at Torrey Pines. And in 05, he was 42nd in earnings, thanks in large part to those two playoff losses. He hasnt had back-to-back years in the top 50 on the money list since his first two seasons of 1991-92.
So why now is the 'C' word more of a good word when used in relation to Daly?
Just kind of having things more in order off the course, he says. When things are better off the course, then you can play better on it.
Things are still far from perfect outside of the ropes for Daly, as you will see on his show. But they are much better than they have been in the past, and you will see that as well.
What I noticed, from talking to him and listening to what he said during his talk-show rounds, is that Daly seems to be much more comfortable with who he is. Hes not letting others place labels on him, and he believes that he has a hold of his current lifestyle.
And, hes not living in the past.
You have to look forward. If you live in the past youre never going to be a positive person, he says. Everybody does things in life that they kind of regret, but think about the positives and move on.
As for this year, Daly has one goal in mind: Make the Ryder Cup, he says. In his 15 previous seasons, hes never played on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, and both of his major victories came in Ryder Cup years. Hes currently outside the top 50 on the points list, meaning hes really going to have to get that consistency thing going to make it on his own merit ' which is something he knows that he will have to do after seeing the lack of consideration he received as a possible captains selection in 04.
At first sight, Daly appears that he may actually be in better shape ' that shape being slightly less round ' than he was even a year ago. And its not through exercise. They wouldnt let me bring my beer and my smokes with me to the gym, he jokes. Or maybe that wasnt a joke.
Sherrie says that she has him on her diet plan and that hes dropped about 30 pounds. She says that hes lost his spare tire, to which Daly quickly chimes in, Yeah, but Ive got two more around here.
Make no mistake; hes still a big man. And a very busy one.
Off the course, Daly has plenty of other interests. Hes involved in multiple charity operations, including his own John Daly Charitable Foundation, which provides relief to the poor and underprivileged, especially kids.
In addition to The Daly Planet, hes also working on an autobiography, entitled In and Out of the Rough, which he expects to be released some time after this years Masters.
'It will be very revealing,' Daly says of the book. 'I might get in some trouble for this one.'
And, of course, there are the constant obligations to his sponsors, which keeps him on the road most of the year.
But when he does get some down time, he says that he loves to head to his home in Dardanelle, Ark., where he just purchased a golf course, the Lions Den Golf Club.
Its fun, you know. Its different, he says. When I do deals with golf courses, its usually Im a consultant. But when you own your own theres a lot of stuff you can do.
Im going to do it right, he continues. Ill probably put a couple of million in it, maybe not that much, but its going to be great for the members ' where else can you join a club for a thousand bucks (initiation fee) and $95 a month?
As well as giving his members ' which he estimates around 228 at the present ' a quality locale at which to play, the Lions Den also provides Daly with his ideal practice facility.
Nothing against my home in Memphis, but I like to go to Arkansas and practice, he says. I dont have to put a pair of slacks on or a golf shirt, I can wear whatever I want ' I can play barefooted if I want to. I take my cart out on my little range, and mainly what I do is hit a lot of wedges and putt a lot.
Not hard to imagine Daly in a t-shirt and jeans, with a Marlboro dangling from his mouth and a Miller Lite next to his shoes-less feet, just flopping some wedges with a bunch of his buddies.
On April 28th of this year, Daly will turn 40. Hes been a professional at this game for nearly half of his life. The games been very good to him, and in many ways, hes been good for the game.
Had things not gone his way, had he never made the field in the 91 PGA as the ninth alternate, and had he just given up when life got the better of him, theres no telling where Daly would be right now. Even he doesnt know.
Man, I couldnt tell you, he says with an exasperated laugh. I guess Id like to do something outside.
I think youd be a lawn guy, his wife says. Youd own your own lawn business or something.
Yeah, maybe, Daly replies. Or maybe a field-goal kicker. I dont know if I would have been good enough to go pro, though.
Fortunately, he doesnt have to worry about such a scenario. Hell never have to mow another mans grass or check the waiver wires for a job. He can play golf as long as he wants. And according to him that will be until Im 6 feet under.
In 10 years time, well probably even see him on the senior circuit.
No cut, he says of the Champions Tour. Yeah, I could do that.
If I live to be 50.
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Related Links:
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.