The return of Tiger Woods has certainly grabbed worldwide headlines in 2009, but it just may be another comeback that turns into this year’s biggest story. The rollercoaster career of John Daly is once again on the upswing and golf fans remain enthralled with the delicate balancing act between his tremendous ability and personal demons.
For all his antics, Daly has long been one of the Tour’s most gifted players. Boasting incredibly soft hands to go with prodigious length off the tee, he joined the PGA Tour in 1991 after three years at the University of Arkansas. Shortly thereafter, he shot an opening day 69 at the PGA Championship and held off a strong field, becoming the first Tour rookie in 15 years to capture a major championship.
In winning two more PGA Tour titles over the next three seasons, Daly became known for this “Grip It and Rip It” swing. His unorthodox style unleashed tremendous power and gained him legions of fans. While his golf game was booming, however, his personal life was crumbling. Daly’s first official suspension came shortly before his 1995 British Open victory and was a sign of things to come. Over the ensuing years, he lost his PGA Tour card, made trips to alcohol rehab, was married and divorced several times, admitted addictions to nicotine and gambling, and ran up estimated debts of more than $50 million.
The bottom for Daly may have come in late 2008, when he spent a night in jail for a public intoxication outside a Hooters restaurant in North Carolina. He was once again suspended by the PGA Tour and his mugshot was widely pictured in the media. Daly found himself on the outside looking in at a sport he once dominated. Forced to sell merchandise across the street from the Masters this April, Daly cut his infamous mullet, dropped more than forty pounds through stomach band surgery and joined the European Tour.
The 43-year-old quickly made a fashion statement by sporting brightly colored golf pants produced by Loudmouth Golf, but it was his play that generated the most excitement. In just his second tournament, he switched to Boccieri Golf’s Heavy Putter MID-WEIGHT Series and finished runner-up at the BMW Italian Open. Daly chose the K4 model – a toe-droop blade – en route to best professional finish in years.
“I haven’t played as consistently probably since 2004 when I won the Buick,” said Daly. “Working with Rick Smith has been a blessing, we’ve worked on every part of the game….he’s been great with me.”
Daly added, “The putter I used for the first time last week is just called the ‘Heavy Putter.’ It’s made by Boccieri Golf and the idea is that it helps you release the putter through the ball. It was excellent for me.”
Dropping weight and going HEAVY with his putter, just might be the start on the long journey back to the PGA Tour for Daly. He continues to play in Europe and is very capable of once again making an impact on this side of the pond in the coming months.