Almost a decade after the incident, John Daly says he is still pursuing legal action against the PGA Tour for a mishap involving a fan who took his picture during the first round of the 2007 Honda Classic.
Daly first took legal action in 2010, targeting the Tour and the organizers of the Honda Classic, including PGA National Resort & Spa.
A five-time Tour winner whose career high points came with victories at the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open, Daly contends he was hurt when a female spectator jumped in front of him to take his picture as he was teeing off at the 12th hole at PGA National. He says he tried to stop his swing, hit behind the ball, and fractured two ribs and separated his right shoulder, negatively impacting his career for the rest of that season and years to come.
“I was playing with Shigeki Maruyama,” Daly said during a wide-ranging interview on his RV, which he parked at Hooters in Augusta in order to sign merchandise and pose for pictures during the most recent Masters Tournament. “This lady didn’t even have a ticket -- she came out of one of the houses. The weird thing is we warned her twice. We didn’t think she’d do it. I hit about that far behind the ball, and my ribs went one way, my shoulder went the other way.”
Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour, said the Tour would have no comment “because the litigation is ongoing.”
Daly turns 49 on April 28, which means he is about a year away from Champions Tour eligibility. He plans on playing as much as possible, and is already actively recruiting the semi-retired Fuzzy Zoeller to ramp up his schedule so the two friends can play together next year.
In the meantime, Daly is accepting the odd sponsor’s exemption -- he missed the cut at the Valspar Championship in his last start, but tied for 10th in Puerto Rico before that -- and continues to stay busy. He signed autographs and posed with fans outside his trailer in Augusta. He says business is good with his John Daly Sweet Tea Lemonade Vodka, which comes in peach and raspberry.
“We’re in at least 16 states strong,” Daly said. “We should be, in the next month or so, in 23 states.” As for his on-again, off-again sobriety, he said: “I don’t drink much, a sip here or there. I’ll drink a little bit of mine, a little bit of Crown. If I drink and have a little bit of a buzz, I’m good.”
He says he is no longer working with instructor Rick Smith and has no coach, but he adds he is fine with that. Still, not everything is tranquil in Daly’s world -- indeed, he wouldn’t be John Daly without at least a little bit of drama.
“Basically everybody there just broke every rule in the book,” he said of the 2007 Honda, adding that his lawyers planned to stage a mock trial in West Palm Beach, Fla., last week.
“It killed the whole right side of my torso,” Daly said. “It’s cost me since then, I think. This year is probably the best I’ve felt. I never saw that woman again. Somehow there was no police report done at all.”
Daly is no stranger to lawsuits. He sued the Florida Times-Union for libel in 2005, but a judge later dismissed the suit.
Zoeller once said his friend would be lucky to make it to 50, and now Daly is a year away. He has been big (pushing 300 pounds), skinny (thanks to lap-band surgery) and is now big again.
He has claimed in his autobiography gambling losses of roughly $55 million. He has three children with three ex-wives. Shynah Hale (with Bettye Fulford) is 22; Sierra Lynn (with Paulette Dean) is 19; and Little John (with Sherry Miller) is 11. Daly is engaged to Anna Cladakis, who would be his fifth wife, but he says they haven’t settled on a specific date yet.
Although he still has enough game to compete on Tour, Daly’s best stuff comes and goes. It’s been years since he’s made enough to actually keep his card. Unlike others his age, he has not reverted to playing on the lower Web.com circuit. He says his shoulder still pops out occasionally. How he’ll do on the Champions tour is anyone’s guess, but plenty of others before him have gone on to have lucrative second careers on the senior circuit.
Now he’s just got to get to 50.