Except for the moment the club head makes contact with the ball, John Daly plays golf pretty much like any John Daily Fee. Maybe that explains his popularity, which is bound to make him one of the bigger attractions (pun intended) at this weekend’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf.
OK, when he hits the ball, even at 50, it is still a sight to behold. His low, screaming irons off the tee can inspire more jaw drops than anything others on the over-50 tour can produce with one of those beach-ball–headed drivers.
Otherwise, I’ve just never quite gotten the appeal. Even factoring in the funny pants.
Yet there I was walking nine holes in his company Friday, which meant I got in a lot more steps than he did. (Never been able to claim that before about a golfer, given the allure of the modern media room and its air conditioning and buffet table).
Because, you see, he’s plays golf just like everyone else.
That means he rides a cart. Rides it hard, and you get the feeling he would ride it like a polo pony onto the green and swat at his putts in passing if he could.
Carts are allowed on the PGA Tour Champions and honestly are a good idea on a layout so hilly that every spectator should be issued a lift ticket and a Sherpa guide.
But the fact is, few players out here use carts. Neither of his playing partners rode Friday and both – Jim Carter (55) and Kevin Sutherland (52) – are older than the 50-year-old Daly. And neither appeared to be in the same need of a little cardio. Yet on they trudged, like they were athletes or something.
Unlike the average player, Daly rode in the company of a Diet Coke in the drink holder – an encouraging sign. But everyone else knows that golf is no game to play completely sober.
He smokes more than half the people you will meet at a craps table.
He plays fast – like you should play – as anyone else plays when he’s trying to get in a quick nine before his wife gets home.
There is just something about Daly that opens up all the windows on a private golf course and lets out all the stuffiness. His gallery is more NASCAR than PGA. Consider the fellow on No. 2 Friday, sipping on the pre-noon tallboy beer, offering up a hearty fist-bump on Daly’s way to the green.
He also said something encouraging to Daly. Couldn’t quite make it out, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t say it with an English accent.
Daly shot a 1-over 73 on Friday, putting him several laps behind the leader, Bob Tway (65).
That doesn’t matter. He remains an attraction here this weekend because you need to watch someone who bridges the great divide between the typical golf pro and yourself. You must feed the inner Daly that lives within us all.
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Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com