John Daly is quietly making his return on the European Tour -well, all except for his trousers.
Late last year after his Hooters restaurant debacle, I wrote in the pages of the Salem News that I was done defending him and trying to explain his adventures, or even relate them to readers in a way that seemed semi-normal. I said I would always root for him and hoped he could work his way out of his personal life funk, at least enough to contend again.
It's no secret Daly is one of my idols, and I am constantly drawing comparisons between his personal life and my own. The similarities are pretty scary depending on how you view it, but I've written about that already, and someday I'll give you all the refresher course.
He's the biggest draw in golf besides Tiger and that was proven during his highly publicized on and off the course behavior last year when Woods was injured, and it was again when he showed up at this year's Masters selling merchandise in a parking lot across the street.
I've been asked through e-mails and in person why Daly appears so often on our printed pages. Simply put, he is disgusting. Disgusting in that I've seen him play in person, talked to him in person, and have seen exactly what so many other PGA Tour pros have said for years -he is a freak show of talent. He has arguably the softest hands in golf. He hits it a mile. Over the winter he got lap-band surgery on his stomach, dropped 50 pounds, worked with famed coach Rick Smith (Phil Mickelson), got a ridiculously good-looking new girlfriend (because he's John Daly, that's how), and within two tournaments back he's improved his world ranking by some 300 spots. He's practiced a lot, but by no means at Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh standards, and he's done this well already. If this man keeps applying himself even minimally, he will tear up the golfing world.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem might dread his return to the states, but not many other people are -certainly not after his second place finish in the Italian Open on Sunday. Daly pocketed something like 90,000 euros, which is about $130,000, easily his biggest payday in years on the course. Next week, Daly hopes to be paired with the 2008 PGA Player of the Year Padraig Harrington at the 3 Irish Open. Talk about a wild gallery.
I'm not saying Daly is back yet. He's got to win to do that, especially in America or at say the British Open again. I'm not even saying Daly's roller coaster ride is over yet in his life. If he's taught us anything is that it's probably just the beginning. But put it this way. Daly might just be able to right himself long enough to come back bigger and better than ever. At least then if he celebrates like crazy and goes off the deep end again, he'll have at least ruined himself properly.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org