Daly Homeward Bound


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The countdown to the comeback has begun. It is that other comeback we speak of, not the one that began with a limp and another layer to the legacy last June at Torrey Pines.
As best anyone can tell, this one began the day the tolerance of the Ponte Vedra Beach powers ran dry and John Daly discovered that without a PGA Tour card his off-course schtick is neither entertaining nor lucrative. Hard living may be good fun, but it doesnt pay the bills.
John Daly
John Daly's game has improved in all areas. (Getty Images)
During that six-month Tour-imposed hiatus, Daly had stomach surgery, lost 55 pounds, frosted his tips, perfected his remade swing with coach Rick Smith, found a new girlfriend and, if his month in Europe is any indication, found a road that may lead him back to the Tour instead of a much more tragic final chapter.
Maybe necessity really is the father of invention ' or is it intervention? ' and nothing motivates more than the view from the bottom. Either way, the guy who had gotten it wrong for so long is giving those scoring at home something to hope for.
On Monday, Daly confirmed he will end his Tour suspension in three weeks at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, and the irony that St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes may be the least ironic element of JDs most recent make good.
Perhaps the best part of Big Johns big turnaround is his road less traveled. Black-balled at home, Daly turned to the European Tour where hes finished T-31, second, missed cut and T-72. For a two-time major winner that line is a reason to drink. For a man at the end of a delicate rope and in desperate need of progress, its a reason to be optimistic.
Losing the weight has been a blessing in disguise. Its something I really wanted to do, Daly told Golf Channels Rich Lerner on Tuesday. My goal is to get down to 190 pounds. Im at 225 (pounds), so Im ahead of schedule.
They call the Champions Tour the ultimate career mulligan, but for Daly the European circuit has been the best of all possible reloads. Across the pond hes been able to fly under the radar, as best a 43-year-old with frosted hair and something called Loudmouth pants on can slip from notice.
The European press, normally not the kindest bunch, has been easy on the big man; the golf courses, normally wet this time of year, are too the bombers liking; there are no Hooters and, perhaps most importantly, being on the far side of the globe hasnt allowed Daly to fall into old habits.
Perhaps the best nugget of news from Daly on Tuesday was that, at least right now, his PGA Tour schedule is limited. After Memphis he will play the Buick Open in Michigan and qualifying for the U.S. Open. Without a rash of sponsor exemptions, which is not likely given Dalys sordid track record with freebies, his best and only option will be to play out the season in Europe, which may be an even bigger blessing than the lost lbs.
My goal is the Race for Dubai right now, said Daly from Kent, England, where he is playing this weeks European Open. Thats the goal I have to stick to. Theres no way Im going to get 15 events in the States. I want to play as many U.S. events as I can, but if I cant play three, four in a row Im going to come back over here.
His on- and off-course improvements aside, Daly seems to be skipping some key steps along the way to recovery like personal responsibility. When asked about his six-month sidelining by the Tour Daly deflected: Its the way (Tour commissioner) Tim (Finchem) saw things, I guess.
And observers of any length had to double-clutch when he was asked about his rough and tumble past: People think I run hard. I dont. Ive just been in the wrong places at the wrong time. ... Im in bed by 8:30, 9 oclock every night. If you dont know me thats what Ive been pretty much my whole career.
The arm-chair therapist demands more. Those who follow Daly hoping for the best yet not surprised by the worst, however, will settle for a partially reticent JD who is working on his game, his relationships and his restraint.
Dalys work with Smith, who he teamed with just before last years PGA Championship, and a healthy, fitter body has produced a swing that looks a lot like the flowing action he used to overpower the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1995.
Putting and patience are the last two items on the to do list, and the two are not mutually exclusive. Smith has shortened Dalys putting stroke and lengthened his workouts. The biggest difference between 2008 JD and 2009 JD?
Im making sure I prepare myself for tournaments. I can say in the past Ive gotten lazy and very complacent, Daly said. Every tournament that I will play in I will be prepared for it.
During a moment of electronic clarity, Daly posted a telling item to his increasingly popular Twitter account on Tuesday: A great coach and a positive, motivating girlfriend is refreshing. Glad to be back on [the] PGA Tour.
After Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, no one moves the needle like Daly on Tour and hes bound to be at center stage regardless of his score when he arrives in Memphis, but for those who like what they have seen during Dalys European vacation, a little more time across the pond may be just what he needs.

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Related Links:
  • Video: John Daly interview
  • Daly returns to the PGA Tour