John Daly is pudgy - granted. Hes got lines where there shouldnt be lines. He smokes cigarettes like they were toothpicks. He has never spoken such thoughts, but he probably has nightmares of the times when he would painfully put a peg in the ground and want to stay there ' its called a hangover.
But theres one other thing about John Daly and all those life experiences - hes become a pretty consistent golfer. The man who was careening down a path to early ruin has at last started to pick up top-10s in bunches.
It started last year, and its picked up this year. Sunday was an almost ' he led the Phoenix Open at one time but just couldnt quite finish. He wound up two shots behind winner Chris DiMarco in a tie for fourth.
A funny thing happened, though. The people just love him, regardless of what he does. My wife is crazy about John, and Ive struggled to understand it. I think its because that, in all the times hes botched it up, he humbly admits hes wrong and tries to do better. And he's made a sincere ' if sometimes flawed ' desire to make it right.
Its been awhile, though, since he had to say the mea culpas. Lately, it sounds like the world is right by J. Daly. One thing is impressive ' he refuses to say he will win, or even that he will contend this year. He loves what is happening to him at this moment, though, as he told the writers gathered at Phoenix.
So, is John Daly back?
I dont know, he said honestly. I just love the way Im striking the ball. And you know, I just hope we get some more contention rounds, and maybe one day Ill come out on top.
The galleries, of course, are completely dazzled. Again, its a bit mystifying. Theres nothing in the world that is slick, no funny one-liners and no smooth wise-cracks. He isnt Fuzzy or Trevino. But his popularity has grown to the extent that it is almost unimaginable.
Daly admits to being a bit mystified, too. He hears the crowds, he knows something special is going on. But hes as clueless as I am about the popularity thing.
I dont know, he says, a bit bewildered by it all. I think people kind of relate to what Ive gone through. Everyone knows about my life, all Ive been through, the good things, the bad things. And I just think people relate to that.
Winner Chris DiMarco was Dalys playing partner the third round at Phoenix. He was just an anonymous face with a funny putting grip. But hes so happy that good fortune has begun to smile on John.
You know, I guess ' you know, Johns a great guy, said DiMarco. He really is. Hes fun to play with. They (the fans) love him, and they let him know about a thousand times a hole.
Daly felt completely at ease, but then he must feel at ease all over the country. He walks out to putt a little, smack a few drives, loosens up ' and the fans welcome him like some kind of long-lost brother.
I mean, its amazing, he said. Everywhere I go, it feels like home. You know, its just good to be playing good for the fans. It means an awful lot to them, and it means an awful lot to me.
Daly may have quit the carousing, the boozing, the brooding, the stray women, but one thing he hasnt quit is the smoking. Too many things at one time ' or so he says. His colorful language is funny when he tries to describe it.
Hell, Ive quit too much other (stuff) to worry about quitting smoking, he said, and stuff came out sounding suspiciously like spit. I mean, theres probably two things Im not going to quit ' sex and smoking ' right now.
Zoeller calls him Piggy, referring to his former days as an Arkansas Razorback. Piggy is now in the sty, just living life at its most basic. He has stopped running around trying to be a wild man, not feeling like he has to experience every one of lifes emotions before he dies. He plays golf now. Period.
Its a new feeling every day ' I mean, when I play, said John. Its a great feeling. Its something that ' you know, I just ' I just love it.