Daly had gone through his first rehab and emerged with a quiet confidence. Later, much later, he would confess that he still was a long way from being cured. At the BellSouth in Atlanta that year, he won for the final time in the United States. Since then, time hasnt been good to Daly, either personally or professionally.
The greatest thing about this day (in 1994) is I know I can win golf tournaments sober, said Daly. That means a lot.
That was nine years ago, and so much has happened since then. The next year he won the British Open. But with that moment of glory has come so many negatives.
It had started that same year ' 94 ' when he scuffled in August in the parking lot with the father of a competitor, and there is strong evidence that he was not to blame. But in September of 94, Daly agreed to sit out to remainder of the year due to his erratic behavior. A couple of years later, he was seen drinking in public again, and in 1997 he came unglued at The Players Championship after a night of drinking. He arrived back at his hotel room and what happened next is unclear, but wife No. 2 left him and didnt return.
He lost his Reebok endorsements and Wilson as well. He entered rehab again in 97, then emerged with a newfound declaration of sobriety and an endorsement with Callaway. In 1999, though, he revealed that he was drinking socially again, and his Callaway deal was withdrawn. However, he made what he feels was a landmark decision when he stopped taking his medication. Since then, he has taken a slow climb up lifes ladder personally, if not always professionally.
Along the way, he has married four times and been through a lifetime of ups and downs. But at Atlanta in 1994, John Daly did what he had to do ' to win.
Most of the final day he was in a position to playing catch-up to David Peoples. At No. 16, he three-putted to fall one behind. Number 17 was another gaffe ' he mis-hit his drive, got the approach on the green but 80 feet away, and then proceeded to three-putt again. Fortunately for him, though, Peoples also made bogey, meaning they would go to the 18th with Peoples still out in front by a stroke.
The 18th at Atlanta Country Club is a par-5 that curves left around a lake. Twice Daly used a 2-iron, 4-iron to reach the green, but since he figured he would need a birdie Sunday to tie Peoples, he choose a driver.
Anybody who knows me knows Im not gonna lay up, Daly said. Not when I have to make birdie.
So Daly stepped mightily into his drive and watched it float dangerously close to the trees on the left. But it landed in the fairway, leaving Daly a mere 172 yards ' 8-iron distance ' to the hole.
Nolan Henke was now in the mix, having finished the tournament tied with Daly, one back on Peoples. But he was so sure Daly would birdie that he didnt even bother warming up.
I didnt even go to the range and get loose, said Henke. I was counting on John making birdie.
Dalys second shot was into a greenside bunker, injecting a little excitement. He got it out to five feet on his third shot, but Brian Henninger eagled the hole to tie Henke and Daly, still a shot behind Peoples.
Daly, however, then sank his putt for the win. And Peoples made bogey to doom his chances.
I really did struggle, said Daly. One or two years ago, I couldnt have pulled it off. I played smart when I needed to and took chances when I needed to.
And, he won. The intervening years have been somewhat rocky, but for this week, it was smooth riding.