John Daly on playing after cancer diagnosis: ‘I figure I can’t just sit at home’

The week after John Daly had surgery to remove the recently diagnosed cancer in his bladder was brutal.

Eight days of chemotherapy and surgery left the 54-year-old feeling tired Friday at Minnehaha Country Club. Despite his fatigue, Daly chose to compete at the Sanford International this weekend.

“(My doctor) didn’t really say just sit at home. He didn’t really recommend I be playing, either,” Daly said. “I figure I can’t just sit at home, it’s just going to get in my mind and it’s going to make me feel worse, so going to try to keep playing as much as I can. I’m going to go back home after this week and go see the doc again.

“I hate missing PURE Insurance and Pebble, but he wants to go and sit down with me and go through everything and set up an appointment sometime early November, right after the season, and go back in and check it out again.”

LEADERBOARD: Sanford International

Daly played pretty well Friday, considering the physical and mental stress of the past few weeks.

He finished the first round 2-under 68 to sit T-11, one shot behind Steve Stricker and three behind a three-way tie for the lead. Daly, who won the 1991 PGA Championship and 1996 Open Championship, said the cold, rainy weather in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was “brutal” and the course didn’t play easily, but he was satisfied with his performance.

Daly, who withdrew from the field at the PGA Championship in early August due to health concerns, last competed on the Champions Tour in mid-August at the Charles Schwab Series at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge. He withdrew from the tournament after two rounds due to illness. The last full event Daly played was the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, where he finished T-70.

John Daly on the 17th hole during the first round of the 2020 Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The good news surrounding Daly’s diagnosis is the cancer has not spread to his kidneys, pancreas or liver. Daly said his doctors informed him the cancer is beatable if he changes some health habits.

“Learned an awful lot in the last week about it,” Daly said. “It’s something that a lot of people have beaten and can get through it but it’s going to be painful but three months, three months, six months, a year, it’s going to be pretty painful how they do the operations so 80-85 percent chance it comes back and I’ll be getting it done in November again.”

In November, Daly said he’ll check in with his doctor and if the cancer has returned, he’ll undergo another surgery to remove it.

“They’ll just cut it out again and keep cutting it out until hopefully one day it goes away,” he said.

One of the major changes Daly told Golf Channel he is trying to make in order to decrease the chance of a recurrence is drinking less Diet Coke and smoking less. Daly said he lit up a few cigarettes on the course Friday, but significantly fewer than usual.

“I feel confident if I do what they tell me to do — hell, I only smoked six cigarettes, not even six cigarettes out there today,” Daly said. “It’s usually about a pack and a half so I’m trying to slow everything down but I can’t just quit everything right now and (the doctor’s) cool with that.”

Same old John Daly.

Despite the uncertainty of his cancer diagnosis, the resulting surgery and chemotherapy, he’s still smiling.

“I’ve got to (smile), man,” Daly said. “We’ll beat it, I’ll beat it.”

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