BOCA RATON, Florida – You never know where you’re going to see John Daly these days.
He was at last week’s presidential debate in Nashville as a guest of Donald Trump.
There is a YouTube video of Daly making a hole-in-one – barefoot, no less – in a charity tournament in Virginia earlier this month.
And six weeks ago, the 54-year-old Daly announced he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Daly’s life remains as unpredictable as a soap opera, material he can use in one of his country songs.
This week, you will see Daly on a golf course, playing in the TimberTech Championship at Broken Sound Club. Even during a global pandemic, Daly makes more news in a summer than most athletes do in their lifetime, which helps explain why he remains one of the game’s most popular players.
But Daly’s popularity won’t help him on The Old Course – fans aren’t allowed this week because of COVID-19 concerns. Nobody will be screaming when he grips it and rips it.
“It’s been weird,” Daly said this week. “I miss ‘em, I miss ‘em dearly. I thrive on them. Whether you are playing good or bad, they try to pump you up.”
At least Daly has someone he can croon with in the locker room. Colt Ford, a former pro golfer turned country music star, was given an exemption into the TimberTech Championship. Daly said he and Ford recently finished a video entitled “Red, White and Boozed.”
You don’t have to make this stuff up with Daly.
He’s been entertaining us since the 1991 PGA Championship, when as the ninth alternate he won by hitting the ball miles past everyone else. Kind of like what Bryson DeChambeau is doing these days.
Daly went on to win the 2005 British Open and three other PGA Tour titles while earning more than $10 million. But he is known more for his affinity for gambling and drinking, as well as his sartorial choices.
Daly won an interesting wager when buddy Fuzzy Zoeller bet Daly $150,000 he wouldn’t make it to his 50th birthday. The recent cancer diagnosis is a reminder that nobody lives forever.
Daly said the news hit him hard, and his first chemotherapy treatment hit him harder.
“The only positive is this cancer is treatable, but I’m probably looking at chemo for the next five to seven years,” Daly said. “The first chemo kicked my butt. I’m just praying maybe they got it.”
It didn’t get any easier when doctors told Daly what adjustments he would have to make with his life. It was almost like they told him to stop being John Daly.
“Everything I love to eat and drink causes the stones that causes the cancer,” Daly said. “Alcohol. Beef. Milk. Diet drinks. I’ve tried to cut back on the smokes. Thank God I don’t like energy drinks because they’re the worst.”
His four seasons on the PGA Tour Champions haven’t gone as well as he envisioned. In 77 starts, he has a victory and 10 top-10 finishes while earning $1.7 million. This year, he ranks 58th in the Charles Schwab Cup money list with a top 10 in 11 starts.
Daly won his second major on The Old Course in Scotland, but odds are he won’t duplicate that feat at The Old Course in Boca Raton. In three starts here, he has finished 73rd, 39th and withdrew in 2017 when he was struggling in the final round.
“It’s not a course that favors me because I can’t hit driver a lot,” Daly said.
Yet if fans were allowed this week, no doubt they would be flocking to Daly. Asked to explain his popularity, he knows it goes beyond his golf game.
“My swing is a little longer than most,” he said. “I’ve never lied to my fans. When I screw up, I take the blame. I’ve always been honest with them. You have to be if you want to keep your fans.”