The fans still chant for John Daly
1:32 PM
Art Spander in John Daly, Safeway Open, articles, golf

By Art Spander

NAPA,  Calif. — His game? Well, John Daly made the cut in a regular PGA Tour event for the first time in two years, didn’t he? His fame? Just listen to those fans. “Daly, Daly, Daly,” they chanted as he walked out of the scoring trailer.

They love him. Still and always. At age 52, perhaps more curiosity than competitor, although since he will play all four rounds at the Safeway Open — and people such as Keegan Bradley and D.A. Points will not — John is far from a relic.

He was given an exemption. He gave the sponsors an attraction.

Daly and Phil Mickelson were the most recognizable golfers in the field at Silverado Country Club. Phil, four back of first-place Tyler Duncan with a round to go, has an outside chance for a win. John has a great chance to keep the crowd engaged.

We know the pain he’s put others through, put himself through, the alcoholism, the domestic spats, It wasn’t that long ago down in Winston-Salem when sheriffs brought him in, although they didn’t charge him. Here, sheriffs from Napa County serve as his protection on course.

Can’t be too careful with your stars. And for better or worse, with that tempestuous history, with those garish (and copyrighted) Loudmouth trousers, with golf still seeking to expand its audience in these post-Tiger days, Daly remains a star.

He may be a regular on the Champions (seniors) Tour. He may have been at the other end of the Saturday groupings, with Ted Potter Jr. and Martin Piller last off the 10th tee. No matter. He was John Daly, winner of the 1991 PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open — and with his reputation and personality, the common man’s links hero.

Grip it and rip it. That was the Daly mantra. Isn’t that what every golfer tries to do? Not a lot of grace or subtlety. Just like John.

“People were awesome,” said Daly about his trip around the course. He shot a one-under 71, his second straight sub-par round, and is at a cumulative two-under 214.

“I got a lot of offers to have a beer.”

John is the guy next door, except this guy next score can hit the ball more than 300 yards and, when things go right, display a putting touch that belies his size (uhm, is 320 pounds a fair estimation?) and helped him birdie the 18th hole Friday to make the cut on the number, one-under 143.

He’s never been qualified or chosen to make America’s Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup teams, which in the selection process may be more intent than oversight. Golf people have not taken kindly to Daly’s lifestyle — although they love the way he brings in spectators.

Daly is a cottage industry. His web site advertises “Daly’s Deals,” offering everything from those flowered trousers to Smith’s Workwear flannel shirts to trucker caps with the slogan “Grip it N Rip it” that cost $19.99. That’s a deal?

A musician of sorts, singer and guitar player, Daly the other night took part in one of the concerts that in the evening follow the golf at the Safeway. “Someone said they thought I was pretty good,” confessed Daly.

His golf used to be very good, and when he was younger it was hard not to muse about Daly, who at one time had such a great future. Now it's hard not to wonder, had he kept his life in order, what might have been.

That’s a game so many of us play, speculation. And true, Daly possibly could have done much, much more. Still, he’s playing golf effectively enough to make the cut against people a generation younger and hear appreciative fans chant, “Daly, Daly, Daiy.”

That’s no small achievement for big John.

 

Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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