PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Most players would be looking for alternate lines of work if they recorded just two top 10s in eight years.
Not John Daly, the major winner-turned-sideshow who has been given everlasting life by tournament directors.
On Friday at the Valspar Championship, Daly made a 12 on the par-4 16th hole en route to a second-round 90 – the worst score of his increasingly bizarre career. He has now shot at least one round of 80 or higher every year since 1991.
No one can take away Daly’s two major titles, of course, but they’re darn sure getting harder to remember. His last major triumph was 19 years ago – when Jordan Spieth was a few days away from his first birthday. All that remains now is an also-ran in bright clothes with a penchant for big blunders.
Daly blamed putting yips for his two-day total of 22 over par here at Innisbrook, and indeed it was cover-your-eyes stuff: He had four three-jacks and another four-putt. But it wasn’t like he was knocking down the flags, either. In addition to taking 70 putts (including 37 on Day 2), he hit half the fairways and just 20 greens.
This latest embarrassment, though, stems from his work Friday on the 16th hole, where he sailed his tee shot into the water right, then twice rinsed a shot as he attempted to cut the corner from 300-plus yards. Once he got near the green, just 92 feet away, he chunked his pitch into the bunker, blasted out over the green and needed to sink a 2-footer for 12.
“It was a good 12,” he told reporters afterward. “I got up and down to do it.”
To his credit, Daly signed a few autographs after his round, and he tried to put his day into perspective by discussing the current events in Malaysia, Harlem and Austin.
“People have bad holes,” he said.
Still, Friday’s 90 was Daly’s worst score in 1,467 career PGA Tour rounds, but he also has two 87s (2000 Bay Hill, 2007 Wells Fargo), an 88 (2009 Buick) and an 89 (2009 British Open) on his resume. Yes, people have bad holes. Daly just happens to have them more routinely than any player in PGA Tour history.
In fact, this was Daly’s 62nd round of 80 or higher on Tour. Sixteen times he has recorded a 10 or higher on a hole. That dreadful recap doesn’t even include his various excursions abroad, such as the 2011 Australian Open, where he sent seven balls into the water before storming off the course. In 2002, he slung his putter into the greenside pond on 18 and failed to sign his card, leading to a DQ. In 2009, he smashed a spectator’s camera into a tree.
Other notables on his career-long blooper reel include hitting 3-wood into the water six times and taking an 18 – his worst-ever score – at the 1998 Bay Hill tournament. In the 2000 U.S. Open, he carded a 14. He also had a 13 at the 2011 John Deere. Two years ago, he went 63-86 in Las Vegas.
Yet, for reasons unknown, the soon-to-be 48-year-old continues to play on Tour, almost exclusively on handouts. Never mind the fact that he hasn’t won since 2004. Or that he has just two top 10s since 2006. Or that he has 17 withdrawals in that same span.
Daly didn’t quit Friday, at least not in the walk-off sense, but he has in the past. Too many times. In all, he has 38 career WDs on Tour. That’s as many as David Duval (10), Davis Love III (nine), Vijay Singh (seven), Tiger Woods (six) and Fred Couples (six) combined.
When reached by GolfChannel.com on Friday afternoon, Valspar tournament director Kevin Krisle said that Daly has been a longtime supporter of this tournament, that he’s done a lot of work with the charities and that he played a Tuesday pro-am round with reps from the title sponsor. In other words, the minimum obligations for a touring professional.
Krisle declined to comment, however, when asked whether he had any apprehension in offering a spot to Daly given his recent form and past incidents, saying only that “all sponsor decisions are difficult to make. He’s been supportive of the tournament.”
“There are a lot of fans in the Tampa Bay area that love watching him play,” Krisle said.
Apparently for the same reason that fans turn up for UFC fights. They want to see carnage, and no one has self-immolated on the course more often than Daly.
Truth to tell, his occasional blowups would be easier to accept if he actually tried to earn a spot on his own merit. He’s been coasting on sponsor exemptions for the past eight years.
How many times has he attempted to Monday qualify?
How many trips to Q-School has he made?
This was Daly’s fifth start of the season, which seems an awful lot of events for the world’s 582nd-ranked player. Rest assured, the freebies will keep coming, presumably because of JD’s everyman appeal. At least they’ve got that part right – his golf has never looked more ordinary.