The picture was scary enough: John Daly caught in mid-windup, getting ready to smash a fan’s camera against a tree as a frightened spectator in front of him braces for a blow. Turns out, that’s only the half of it. Will Swinton of Austrialian newspaper The Sun-Herald followed Daly throughout his fateful round at the Australian Open last week, and he says that anyone watching Daly could have seen this explosion coming.
The picture Swinton paints of a chain-smoking, taciturn Daly playing with disinterest and near contempt of his audience should give pause to any fan willing to forgive Daly’s many flaws because of his outsized personality, not to mention tournament sponsors looking for larger galleries. Swinton's story also makes the PGA of Australia’s silence on the matter dubious at best. Spineless is another word that comes to mind. He sprayed his drive to the right. His ball hit a grey-haired spectator and bounced under a tree. Oh, the laughter! Daly came through the crowd and the rest is like slow motion -- the brooding giant walked to his ball and went straight past Brad Clegg. Clegg fired off a photo when Daly was a meter from him. Again Daly did not flinch. But then he stopped and turned. He said his first words in hours: "You know what . . " He turned and stormed at Clegg. He ripped the camera out of Clegg's hands and there was a frightening element to it all. All that quiet, then the snap. It looked as if Daly might belt Clegg, who turned white. The former fan was undoubtedly afraid, stumbling backwards. Daly had the camera in his hand. He was shaking. Someone shouted, "Let it go, John!" He let it go all right but not in the manner intended. He turned, lined up a tree and wound up like he was pitching for the Yankees. He hurled the camera and hit the tree bang-on. The camera smashed. Daly got his ball, hit his shot and left. He was still quiet. Yet Daly does have a defender in playing partner Rober Allenby, who found more fault with the media’s, fans’ and tournament organizers’ actions than anything Daly did. The native Aussie went as far as to threaten to stop playing future Australian Opens. "A lot of things were wrong this week, not so much with me," Allenby said. "I don't want to get myself into trouble, but I could really let loose. I think it's disgusting how the media have treated John Daly. It's totally disgusting."All the guy wants to do is play golf. He understands, and we understand, that people want photographs. It says on the ticket: 'No cameras allowed'. If this guy (Clegg) is going to kick on and on and on about it, that's just horse s---."He knows that he shouldn't have it there, so why'd he have it in his face? That's a joke."I could have taken 50 cameras myself. That's how close they were. The marshals did nothing. The first day on 16, the marshal's taking a photo from the middle of the fairway, five yards behind Daly. There were more cameras this week than I've ever seen in my life, at a tournament." Allenby also took tournament organizers to task for the Australian Open’s “Stadium Hole” on the 17th hole, which included a bar for fans. "That's not promoting golf, that's promoting alcoholism," Allenby said.
I’m sure Allenby’s criticisms have merit, but there’s no excuse for Daly forcibly taking a fan’s camera and smashing it. We’re in dangerous territory here and anyone thinking of inviting Daly to any event next year, except maybe a bachelor's party, should read Swinton’s article closely and ask themselves if a larger crowd is worth anyone's safety. Long John may be a folk hero, but he can’t play Batman to enforce tournament camera rules. This incident in Australia was ugly, and it could have been a lot worse. John Daly Homepage | Photos: The Ups and Downs of John Daly