Cheers Were All for Big John


It certainly isn't the refined thing to do, this whoopy-do hollering when someone misses a putt in golf.
But Vijay Singh was acutely aware of whom the fan favorite was Sunday. And it wasnt him. The cheers that erupted when he missed a makeable putt on the 72nd hole were impolite, to say the least. They were cheers for the good fortune of one John Daly, who as a result of Singh's missed putt would now be in a playoff.
John Daly and Vijay Singh
Even Vijay Singh had a rooting insterest in his friend John Daly.
But Singh didnt mind the outburst in the least. He realized that it would have happened to anyone who was unfortunate enough to get between John Daly and victory. In fact, if he was anywhere else except grinding it out on the golf course, he admitted that he would probably have done exactly what the gallery did in Houston Sunday.
It was definitely a no-no - definitely, except when John Daly is involved somewhere in the mix. Vijays misfire meant that Daly would get into a playoff ' a playoff that Daly would eventually lose when his first tee shot bounded into the water.
If I was in the crowd, said Singh, I'd probably say the same. Everyone loves John. If I was in there, I would have wanted to see a playoff anyway. ... It didn't bother me at all.
Theres something about John Daly, and Im not exactly sure what it is. He comes across as a big ol loveable oaf at times, a mixed-up, confused adult at others. But my wife will forgive John almost any transgression, make excuses for almost any lapse of playing ability, forgive almost any personal misstep that Daly makes. And she is merely one of a million or so Daly-acs who will fiercely stand by their favorite Paul Bunyon.
Why? I dont understand it. My wife is rather stern when it comes to personal deportment. But where John is concerned? Dont you dare say anything untoward against John!
Daly is like some sort of big cuddly teddy bear, and in a perverse sort of way, it enhances his likeability factor even more when he frequently hits the skids. John, it must be said, can do no wrong when it comes to his legion of fans around the globe.
Daly is only a day or two shy of his 39th birthday. He has been all over the map in the playing category during his career won the PGA Championship early on, won a British Open. But there were six years that he couldnt even finish in the top 100 on the money list. He just emerged from a rocky patch of two months when he shot in the 80s three times. In the last six weeks prior to last week, in fact, he had shot in the 60s only once.
John Daly
John Daly reacts to his birdie putt on the 72nd hole at the Shell Houston Open.
It's just been a year I haven't scored real well. I've hit it great, said John, and if that is true, then his putting must have been terrible. And Daly has a reputation of being a very good putter.
He may have solved his problem, though. A change of length and lie of his putter may have been the answer. He had been using a 35-inch putter in the past, but switched to a 34 -inch model. Teacher Steve Holden convinced him to switch back to the 35.
He said, That's what we need to do. It can't hurt because you're putting like crap,' said Daly with brutal, if not to too cultured, honesty.
My caddie, Peter, he's honest with me, too. He says, You're putting so bad you need to try something. So we did. I looked at some footage of the '91 PGA (which he won), and I know I had a putter that was at least 70 (lie) and it was 35 inches long. The ball is rolling better than I've rolled it in a long, long time.

The most gratifying part of his day, though, was making birdie on the final two holes of regulation to get into the playoff. Actually, the entire back nine Sunday was an exciting adventure for Daly. He says he took something away from Houston, even going into his 39th year.
I take a lot, said Daly. I take it that under pressure that maybe I've still got it.
Birdieing 15, 17 and 18 - well, actually, 12, 15, 17 and 18 - gave myself a chance to win the golf tournament. You know, when you're not there a lot, it's kind of nice to do that. It would be nice to be there a lot like Vijay and Ernie and Tiger and Phil and those guys are, but when you're not there a lot, to be able to pull those shots off makes me feel more confident about it.
Daly, it must be said, doesnt know why he is so popular. My own very unscientific poll tells me he is the second most popular golfer in America, right after Tiger Woods. He is more widely appreciated than Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Singh, or anyone except Tiger. And he really isnt very far behind Tiger.
The world can be thankful that John has only won nine times (four internationally). Just think what the situation would be if he had won half as many as Tiger ' say, 20 times. I dont think the known world would be able to handle it. And I know the sport of golf wouldnt.
Email your thoughts to George White