Way off course

The Baltimore Sun

Discussing the behavior of someone as self-destructive as pro golfer John Daly is dicey business. Too snarky and it comes off as cruel. Too preachy and it comes off as too righteous.

I'm not sure we'll sound just the right tone here, but Daly's recent weekend is a pretty instructive primer on the guy.

Daly started off at a PGA Tour stop in Palm Harbor, Fla., that's in the greater Tampa-St.Pete-Clearwater area. (The tournament is called the PODS Championship, and, boy, I can really get on a riff about these stupid corporate names for golf tournaments - I mean, PODS are portable storage bins where you stuff junk that you should probably throw out, right?)

Anyway, back to "Big John."

So Daly doesn't make the cut - Thursdays and Fridays of 78-80 will do that to you every time. So far this year, Daly has missed four of seven cuts and has earned a little more than $29,000.

So Daly, whose problems with a variety of vices are well documented, seeks retreat after his early PODS exit to a place just off the 17th hole called the Hooters Owl's Nest.

The hospitality tent for spectators offers packages starting at $69 for chicken wings and an unlimited amount of beer. If you know what Daly looks like (his silhouette is shaped like the Pillsbury Doughboy) and a little about his personal history (he has had several bouts with the bottle), you know that's just what this guy needs - jumbo piles of wings and bottomless mugs of suds.

I will give Daly some credit, though. By putting himself in the line of fire of golf fans who are also doing all-you-can-guzzle brews, he appears to have been pretty accommodating in the meet-and-greet department, according to news accounts.

So the weekend moves along and so does Daly, but not too far, ambling over to the Philadelphia Phillies' spring training camp in Clearwater, where he exchanges salutations of mutual admiration with another big hitter, Ryan Howard, and tosses out a first pitch.

So there you have it: March in Florida, where the temperatures are in 70s; a little golf; banging back some brewskis; and catching a little spring training ball.

For the average Joe, it seems like a good thing. For John Daly, though, it seems like a waste of talent.

Last week, many sports fans were all misty over Brett Favre's retirement, knowing they will miss his good ol' boy, touch-of-the-common-man way. On Favre, that sort of thing wore so well because he also honored the super athletic gifts with which he was blessed.

In Daly's case, the average schmo routine has become a lifestyle that overwhelms his extraordinary gifts as a golfer, the biggest of which is an ability to wallop drives down the fairway. And rather than try to beat back vices - as Favre did when he tackled painkillers and his impulse to party too hard - Daly not only continues to succumb to his vices, he also seems to throw himself headlong further into the pit.

So, not being snarky and not being preachy - just being realistic - the chances of this ending well for Daly don't seem very good.


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