Daly's wife and her parents were in a federal court in Mississippi for the start of their trail on money laundering charges. They wound up pleading guilty in an agreement with prosecutors. Sherrie Miller Daly, indicted last July just five days after giving birth to Daly's first son, was offered five years' probation with six months of house arrest.
'I'm just so happy to be here,' Daly said quietly. 'To me, this is like heaven.'
The Masters also is his haven. He wants desperately for this week to be all about his golf, which has been so good the last two months that he came out of nowhere - a place Daly knows all to well - to return to Augusta National.
Daly has such control of his game that no one would be surprised to see him in a green jacket on Sunday.
'If this is his week, there's no reason he can't win,' Adam Scott said. 'His length is awesome and his short game is pure. It's a matter of it clicking this week.'
But even as Daly played a practice round with good friend Fuzzy Zoeller, his mind was two states away.
Prosecutors have said that Daly didn't know about the trouble that led to the indictment, which alleged that his wife and in-laws conspired to buy and sell drugs using cash from previous transactions.
He said he would stand behind his wife of nearly three years, and strongly recommended she take the plea bargain.
'You don't beat a federal court, a federal judge and the FBI. There's no way,' Daly said in the parking lot. 'I told Sherrie, 'You've got to look after what's ahead of you. If there's probation, house arrest, you've got to take that. I know you're not a convict. I know you're not guilty of anything. But you're not going to win.''
This might not be the best way to prepare for the first major championship of the year, especially on a daunting course like Augusta National that is expected to be firm, fast and troublesome.
But then, distractions seem to be a constant companion.
Daly was the ninth alternate when he drove through the night to the 1991 PGA Championship, then stunned the golfing community by overpowering Crooked Stick to win his first major.
He went through alcohol rehab, a nasty divorce and a suspension from the PGA Tour for rash behavior, then showed up at St. Andrews for the '95 British Open and added a silver claret jug to his trophy collection.
A victory this week at Augusta National - certainly not out of the question considering his skills - would make him only the 15th player in history to capture three of the four majors.
Daly generates a buzz unlike any other player.
He walked only 100 yards from the clubhouse to the putting green, and a wall of people caved in around him. Some of the fans reached out and patted him on the back; others shouted out to him, the voices becoming muffled cheers.
'I'm fine,' Daly said. 'I've got my mind on golf, and it's going to be fun.'
A photo of Daly on the front page Monday of The Augusta Chronicle was vintage - Daly at the top of his swing, the club dangling well past his shoulders, his gut sagging over his waistline, a cigarette dangling between his lips.
Daly has never come into a major with his game looking this good.
He won at Torrey Pines two months ago, his first PGA Tour victory in nine years, against a strong field that included Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson. The following week, he recovered from a disastrous front nine in the final round at Riviera to finish fourth.
That's when Daly started dreaming about Augusta National, and he managed to qualify in spite of himself. During a crucial stretch in Florida, he slammed his hand in a car door and had to miss the Honda Classic. He was in position to qualify for the Masters at Bay Hill until a double bogey-eagle-bogey-triple bogey finish knocked him into a tie for ninth.
Then, he closed with an 80 at The Players Championship and had to wait four hours to find out he got into the Masters by being 10th on the PGA Tour money list.
'My patience hopefully will be better. That's the main thing,' Daly said. 'I'm hanging in there, and that's what is helping me. Even when I shot 80 at The Players Championship, I finished with an eagle, missed a short putt and then a birdie. Hopefully, something good will happen this week.'
Craig Parry of Australia has played several rounds with Daly over the years, and he noticed a change in his game when they were paired together the first two days at Bay Hill.
'He had really good ball control, and he's always had a great short game,' Parry said. 'Even though he bombs it a mile, he's got everything else, as well. He's just got to remain patient. That's one of the keys on this golf course. It's the key for everybody.'
Everyone figured Daly would always do well at the Masters because of his length and soft touch around the greens. But he's had only one top 10 in nine appearance, a tie for third in 1993.
That was the year Daly was served divorce papers from his second wife, Bettye, between nines during a practice round the day before the Masters began.
'There's always something at the Masters,' Daly said.
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