SOUTHPORT, England — John Daly has brought his well-worn act to Royal Birkdale, taking shots at his former coach, cursing his broken-down body, and giving the British tabloids more to write about than they can handle.
He talked about hitting golf balls off beer cans and his association with Hooters, purveyor of chicken breasts and other kinds. He blamed Butch Harmon for spreading falsehoods about the reasons for Daly’s flameout in golf.
Tiger Woods, get well soon. Please.
One month after Woods’s off-the-charts win at Torrey Pines, Daly continues to play Bizarro to Woods’s Superman. The two-time major champion has become so irrelevant on the golf course that he can’t help but make news off it. Is he going to take his shirt off, as he did in that famous You Tube clip? Is he going to hit the casinos during a tournament week, as he did at last year’s PGA Championship? Is he going to break 80?
On the eve of the 137th British Open, Daly accused Harmon of lying about him. During the PODS Championship in Tampa in March, Daly went into a Hooters tent during a rain delay and emerged with Buccaneers Coach Jon Gruden, who caddied for him. After the episode, Harmon said that getting drunk was the most important thing in Daly’s life.
On Wednesday, Daly fired back, insisting that he was only drinking Diet Pepsi in that Hooters tent and that he had “a couple beers” at a charity event two days later.
“I think his lies kind of destroyed my life for a little bit,” said Daly, the 1995 British Open champion at St. Andrews. “I just wish he would become a man and talk about some of the stuff he lied about. That kind of hurt me a little bit.”
Daly later added, “I don’t know what [Harmon’s] problem is, but he needs to stay as far away from me as he possibly can.”
Harmon, working on the driving range Wednesday, answered back.
“John keeps denying that all of his problems are his own doing,” he said. “He needs to take responsibility for his actions.”
Harmon wasn’t mean or vindictive as he spoke. He talked like a man with perspective, which is exactly what he is. He lost a job in the 1980s because of drinking.
Whether Daly was drinking soda pop or Budweiser that day in Tampa is irrelevant. His professional career has become a sideshow, so much so that tournament directors who once threw sponsor’s exemptions his way are now giving them to others.
Daly says the reason the exemptions have dried up is because he isn’t playing well. Truth is, having Daly in the field is a risk.
Will he show up with red scratches on his face, marks he accused his wife of making with a steak knife, as he did in Memphis last year? Will he miss the pro-am and get kicked out of the tournament, as he did at the Arnold Palmer Invitational this year?
It is amazing to think that three years ago at Harding Park in San Francisco, Woods and Daly went head to head in a playoff. Woods prepared for the extra holes with a sports drink. Daly lit a cigarette.
No need to ask who won.
But even that Daly is long gone, contending no more and offending more than ever. His friends, like Pat Perez, have asked out loud when the light will finally turn on for Daly and he will stop his bad habits.
“I love John to death, but I just don’t know what it’s going to take,” Perez said at the FBR Open in February. “He wants to do it, too. That’s the thing, he actually does want to do it, but I don’t know what it’s going to take. A miracle? I have no idea.”
Daly has several friends on the PGA Tour, and he still draws a crowd to his gallery ropes. He signs autographs, contributes to charity, and by all accounts has a good heart.
But reality seems to be a foreign concept to him. During his press conference Wednesday he talked about the onset of injuries and how they have hurt his game. Then he stood up and a roomful of journalists watched an overweight, 42-year-old supposed professional athlete walk out of the room.
John Daly has injuries? The way he has treated his body through the years, is anyone surprised?