ORLANDO — If the PNC Championship that wrapped up here teaches us anything, it’s that families, like putting strokes, do not come pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all.
Consider the winners here, the John Dalys, the original and his namesake son. Nobody is confusing them with Davis Love III (aka Trip) and Davis Love IV (aka Dru), despite the shared affinity for country music and camper living and their success in this fathers-and-sons-and-others event.
But when the John Dalys hugged in victory on Sunday night they looked pretty much like the Davis Loves did when they hugged at this event three years ago.
Asked Sunday what keeps him in the game, the elder Daly skipped right over money — you know, it’s gauche to talk about money as a motivator — and said instead what Davis Love has said, what Jack Nicklaus has said, what every past and future headliner winner of this event has or would say: “I think it’s love for the game, but it’s also love for my son — to be able to play with him — and love for family. Whether we win or lose. I enjoy being out here. Competing. Being on his team.”
It’s a powerful idea, the concept of family as a team. It’s been around for 10,000 years.
Part of what makes this event work is its mid-December dates, Thanksgiving turkey finally gone, more holidays coming, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in the VCR. (The movie came out in ’89. As Steely Dan is best played on a turntable, NLCV is best played on a VCR.) Home for the holidays, indeed.
Man, that JD2 can roll his golf ball. John Daly1, in his brief and exciting prime, was a spectacular glove on, very wristy, full release, see-ball, hit-ball putter. Maybe the last great one we’ll ever see in that style. But his son, who plays at Arkansas, has a classic, modern, semi-robotic, dependable putting stroke that Stan Utley would show his pupils on the heading Do This. It’s perfect.
They won because of the father’s chipping and wedge game and the son’s putting.
It’s odd to think that there was once a popular American TV show called “Father Knows Best” and people bought into it. The nuclear family, dinner at six, mom in her apron. John Daly didn’t grow up with that and his kids didn’t grow up with that. But father taught son, by deed if not by word, that chicks do dig the long ball, but you putt for dough.
The winning team gets $200,000. The son cannot collect his now and stay amateur but if all goes well he’ll get it eventually. It’s a USGA thing, and an NCAA thing. For now.
John Daly, with the life he’s led, could be dead. He has bladder cancer. He smokes like a chimney. (Nelly Korda, who played with Daly in Saturday’s first round, looked at him dragging on a cig on the course with a hint of I’ve never seen that before.) He’s massively overweight. But he of course is not dead.
His backswing is still outrageously long. His Loudmouth duds, announcing his arrival-by-cart from some distant tee, is another form of proof-of-life. He can still make his wedges perform the kind of greenside magic that Bob Jones and Bill Casper and Mickey Wright would have stopped to watch.
Little John Daly dressed like the college kid he is. And he spoke like a certain touring pro who, like his father, won a British Open on the Old Course.
Asked by a reporter about a possible future in professional golf, John Jr. said, “I have plenty of time. I’m still young. So just trying to get more reps in the college field and in amateur events.”
Reps! We all know who introduced that gym word into Standard Golf English.
Tiger Woods his own self.
Woods and his son, Charlie, 12, finished second here. Given Woods’s own brush with mortality this year, on the side of a Los Angeles road early on a weekday morning in late February, it is absolutely astounding that he was able to play here at all, let alone play as well as he did.
Tiger’s family life, as a kid growing up in Cypress, Calif., and as a grown man in Florida, has been dissected to death. As the best player in the world, he married a woman from Sweden, Elin Nordegren. They had two children, a daughter (Sam) and a son (Charlie). They divorced. They share custody of the children. Like millions of other American families, the parents are surely doing the best they can for their children.
But here’s another kind of family that became evident over the course of Saturday and Sunday, here at the PNC. There was a gray electric golf cart marked Tiger Woods. And sometimes Tiger Woods was in it.
And at other times three other family members were squished across its front seat: Rob McNamara, Tiger’s close friend and confidant, behind the wheel; Tiger’s girlfriend, Erica Herman, riding shotgun; Tiger’s daughter, Sam, sandwiched between them.
A conventional family? No. But a family of a kind. You could tell by the devotion to Tiger’s golf — and to Charlie’s. Erica brought Tiger’s patented red-and-black Sunday outfit to new heights for the finale: a black sundress, red high-top basketball shoes, stamped not with the name Converse but with Christian Dior.
Sam Woods is an eighth-grader who plays soccer for her school team. Tiger is often at her games. Jack Nicklaus had a granddaughter on the same team, and the two golf legends would see each other on the sidelines. This weekend, Sam was on the sidelines, watching and rooting (quietly) for her father and brother.
“Our whole family is very, very, very competitive,” Woods said on Sunday. “We don’t like losing.”
They didn’t lose, here at the PNC. They won, by the rules Tiger established. Have fun, don’t make bogeys. As a team, a father-and-son team.
One father-and-son team finished ahead of them, the John Dalys. JD had a big hit with “All My Exes Wear Rolexes.” Well, one of those exes, the fourth, Sherrie, gave birth to John Daly Jr. And father and son formed quite a team this week. There’s more than one path to the championship belt and there’s more than one way to define the word family.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael.Bamberger@golf.com.