John Daly: Wild Thing Always One of a Kind

John Daly is one of golf's all-time great characters and here we take a look at the good, and the bad, from his colourful career.

John Daly profile

Some may complain that there are no more characters in golf but that is an accusation that could never be levelled at John Daly.

One of the unique things about Daly is that he is the only American or European golfer to have won two Major tournaments and never been selected for a Ryder Cup team in the competition’s history.

But that only really scratches the surface because there has never truly been another player like him and it seems inconceivable that there will ever be again.

Daly is a man who pushed golf’s boundaries in more ways than one.

‘Grip It and Rip It’ Brings Success

In a good way, his raw power was the talk of the game in the 1990s and in 1997, he became the first player on the PGA Tour with an average drive of more than 300 yards.

This would hardly raise an eyebrow these days – so far this season 61 players are eclipsing that mark, with Bryson DeChambeau cracking it an average of 322.7 yards off the tee – but at the time, it seemed inconceivable.

And Daly showed it was no fluke by beating the mark every year between 1999 and 2008, with his length off the tee almost as startling as his rise to fame.

An Unlikely Major Winner

Having received a golf scholarship to the University of Arkansas, Daly left without a degree as he spent plenty of time socialising and not much time in class. However, he turned professional in 1987 and recorded a few decent performances on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

But his life changed when Nick Price was forced to pull out of the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club and Daly, who was ninth on the reserve list, was given his chance.

He didn’t even have time for a practice round at the difficult Indiana track. However, following an opening round of 69, he went on to claim a three-shot victory over Bruce Lietzke, and a cult was born.

Troubles and Open Victory

The future was looking bright and he claimed several top-ten finishes on the tour the following year, including winning the BC Open in 1992 by six shots before finishing third at the 1993 Masters, which was won by Bernhard Langer.

However, the slippery slope was never far away and a visit to alcohol rehab was just around the corner.

And then came another twist when, having previously performed well at St Andrews in the Dunhill Cup, he won his second Major, the Open in 1995, beating Italy’s Constantino Rocca in a playoff. The world seemed at his feet.

But then golf fell in love with Tiger Woods. The old demons reappeared for Daly and, while there were victories at the 2001 BMW International Open, 2004 Buick Invitational and at the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour in 2017, other incidents were memorable for the wrong reasons.

Calamitous Holes and Other Problems

Daly has had some horrendous holes in his career.

In 1998 at Bay Hill, he hit six three-woods into the water at the par-five sixth and ended up carding an 18.

Then at Pebble Beach in the 2000 US Open, he smashed three shots into the Pacific on the 18th and signed for a 14.

And at the 2011 Australian Open, he fired seven shots into the water on just one hole.

Gambling and alcohol problems have never been far away and four marriages have ended in tears, but he remains a huge draw in the States. That’s despite the fact he carded rounds of 85 and 86 at last month’s US PGA to end up on 27-over-par after the first two days!

Even now at 55, with John Daly, life is never boring. 

A vastly experienced journalist, Ian has worked the beat on a number of local newspapers and covers a number of different sports for the Racing Post
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