I know it’s become very popular to just bash John Daly. Say he’s tormented, he’s full of demons, and he’s a drunk and a disgrace to the game. You could make a case for all of those based on his actions, but as much as I think he’s responsible for a lot of his own problems, jumping on the “Daly’s a loser” bandwagon is just flat out wrong.
I’ve spent some time with Daly in professional situations and he’s been up front, professional, polite, sober and on time. It’s very vogue to call him a “functioning alcoholic” but that’s a very clinical term and the fact is, we just don’t know. I’ve been around plenty of people in my personal life and in my career that were loaded but still getting the job done.
And I knew it.
There are signs, and if you’re paying attention, they’re pretty easy to detect. I understand that alcoholism is an insidious and tragic problem and some people have a very difficult time beating it. But stop making the blanket statement that “Daly’s an alcoholic.”
We don’t know.
We know that he likes to have a good time. That in public he occasionally drinks too much. That he likes to drink. And gamble. That he’s been drunk. And he’s lost millions at the tables. By society standards, he’s out there, a failure. A two-time major winner, no question Daly has talent. And he has squandered it to the point where we can now ask: What might have been?
When he first burst on the scene Pat Summerall and Frank Chirkinian both told me that he’d win a half dozen Masters or so. “It’s the perfect golf course for him,” was the consensus. Shortly thereafter he was drinking with a few friends of mine at the Freebird Café in Jax Beach and the next thing you know he was tearing up his hotel room at the Marriott at Sawgrass.
“The boy’s got issues,” Fuzzy Zoeller whispered to me after he was summoned in the middle of the night to get Daly straight. Since then Daly has won, and lost on the PGA Tour. Remember the great sand shot he hit at 18 in San Diego to seal the win? Also remember the 3-foot comebacker he missed to lose in a playoff to Tiger at a WGC event? He smacked a ball while it was moving in a major championship. He turned toward the audience once during a clinic and hit a driver over their heads from about 15-yards away.
He’s been on both sides of the spectrum. He has problems, no doubt. But on one level he could be a regular guy who likes having a good time and goes over the edge occasionally. Anytime he does that it’s pretty public and he pays a price. When he was drinking in the Hooter’s tent in Tampa on Sunday during the tournament he was vilified by much of the media. The CBSSportsline writer, Steve Elling, (who I’ve never heard of) absolutely destroyed Daly for his actions and said he was disgracing the game.
What a sanctimonious position! Elling got his information secondhand (he admitted he wasn’t there) and even recounted a conversation between a fan and Daly about drinking a beer together. What’s that got to do with anything? One of the highlights of my career was beers with Arnold Palmer on a Wednesday night before the Players Championship. And Arnie had an early tee time the next day.
Butch Harmon’s announcement that he was “firing” Daly as a client was ludicrous. I know Harmon is from a storied golf family and he has a lot of respect for the game and is in turn respected for it. But that was just grandstanding. Harmon could have easily just said to Daly, “Hey John, this isn’t working so let’s call it a day.” Instead he made a bunch of public pronouncements about how Daly’s top priority was “getting drunk” instead of golf. Even Daly said he just wished that Harmon would have called him and called it off. We all know that Harmon is a publicity hound, just ask Tiger, right before he fired him as his swing coach.
When Daly missed his Pro-Am tee time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the reaction was “told you so!” It’s not like he turned up on the first tee wearing yesterday’s clothes, stumbling to the ball and carrying a beer. He says he got the wrong tee time when he called the tournament office the day before, receiving his Thursday time instead of his Pro-Am time. He knows he should have done more investigating than one phone call but that was his story.
Somewhere in there is the truth but I really think we don’t know what it is. I hope John can get his life together and keep it there. A lot of people have tried to help John but haven’t been successful. Remember, professional golf is full of country club, silver spoon types who have a big holier than thou attitude. Daly’s always been an outsider and remains so.
We’ll see where this goes but for now, I’m withholding judgment.