LA JOLLA, CALIF. — Can I take back a fat joke?
Two weeks ago at the Sony Open, John Daly made the 36-hole cut on the number, but under a new PGA Tour policy he was sent home with some FedEx Cup points and a paycheck. “I don’t think it’s right that I worked my tail off to make the cut,” Daly complained, “but I don’t get to play on the weekend.”
“Had they weighed Daly,” I cracked in print, “they would have found that he hadn’t really worked his tail off.”
Not much of a joke, I admit. Nowhere near the standard set by former SI columnist Rick Reilly, who once wrote that hefty Chris Patton had no trouble reading the greens at Augusta “because all the putts broke toward him.”
But I felt bad afterwards. Daly’s weight goes up and down with his moodswings, and there’s enough clinical history to think that his most recent weight gain may be a consequence of binge eating and/or alcohol abuse. At last week’s Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Daly withdrew on Saturday morning, citing an injured rib; published reports said it was more likely double-vision and the shakes from an overnight bacchanal witnessed by half the Coachella Valley.
Those reports reminded me of stories I heard way back in the winter of 1992, when SI asked me to check out rumors that the reigning PGA champion had been privately reprimanded for bad behavior by then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. Daly, several Tour players and caddies told me, was “out of control … self-destructive … a ticking time-bomb.” At that year’s Bob Hope, they said, he had gone on a drunken binge and … well, he’d done pretty much the same things he’s accused of doing at this year’s Bob Hope.
Fifteen years, four Tour wins and three wives later, Daly is still around, still surprising us with the occasional flash of brilliance. But mostly saddening us, because he’s squandered his talent, his fortune, and most chances he might have had at happiness. It seems unlikely that Daly’s story will end well.
That’s why I wish I hadn’t dipped into the Henny Youngman joke book when Daly made the scales groan in Honolulu. As Larry Bohannon of The Desert Sun points out, “A 41-year-old, 300-pound man who drinks and smokes and eats to excess is in danger of a massive heart attack or stroke.”
For the record, Daly shot rounds of 77-76 at this week’s Buick Invitational and missed the cut by 8 strokes.