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The definitive ranking of John Daly’s 51 greatest, gaudiest and grisliest moments

April 28, 2016

Time flies when you’re winning majors, composing country music and smashing drives from David Feherty’s mouth. Could it possibly be true? It is. John Daly turns 51 today. In honor of the occasion, we’ve ranked his 51 most memorable (along with a few forgettable) moments from the colorful career of golf’s hard-living, big-hitting Everyman.


April 28, 1966: A star is born in Carmichael, Calif. At age five, the legend-to-be moved with his family to Dardanelle, Ark. A year later he took up golf.


When people say that Daly is a “colorful” figure, they don’t always mean it as metaphor. Consider his fondness for Loudmouth Golf, whose kaleidoscopic clothing he first endorsed in 2009.


With a snazzy opening 66 at 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot, Daly found himself in a tie for the lead. But his shots soon went wayward, and so did his driver, which he wound up flinging over a fence.


He’s had an ESPN “30 for 30” made about his life.


Often lost amid the tabloid headlines is this simple fact: Daly has won 20 professional events. His first victory came the same year he turned pro, at the 1987 Missouri Open.


In 1979, young John’s brood moves to Virginia, where as a 13-year-old he won the men’s club championship at his home course, Lake of the Woods Country Club, in Fredericksburg. His victory inspired a new Lake of the Woods rule: No kids allowed in the tournament.



Having earned a half-scholarship to the University of Arkansas, Daly arrives on campus at a full-fighting weight of 235 pounds. His coach insists that he shed some pounds, which Long John does by adhering mostly to a diet of popcorn and Jack Daniels.


Diets don’t always work, but lap-band surgery succeeds. In late 2009, nearly a year after undergoing the procedure, a drastically slimmed-down Daly tells reporters that he has dropped 115 pounds.


Who can resist rooting for a guy who at the 1992 British Open described his course management strategy as follows: “I just hit it as hard as I can, and if I find the ball, I hit it again.”


A real-life Roy McAvoy, Daly pumps six shots into the water on the par-five 6th hole at the 1998 Bay Hill Invitational. He walks off the green to chants of “Tin Cup,” having carded a tidy 18 on the hole.


As a high school junior, now living in Missouri, Daly won the Missouri high school state championship and the Missouri State Amateur in the same year.


In 1997, Long John lives up to his sobriquet by becoming the first Tour pro in history to average more than 300 yards in driving distance over the course of a season.


That jacket.


Daly’s life has also gained attention for its down-home normalcy, as when he borrowed brown sugar and other domestic essentials from Davis Love III at the many Tour events where their motorhomes were parked next to one another.


OK, so maybe he’s not pretty in pink. But he can pull it off. As when he played in a 2013 charity event in a pink tutu.


Sorry, Rickie, Jordan and your 2016 spring-fling pals, but Wild Thing was going topless long before you. Witness his 2008 showing at Murder Rock golf club in Missouri, where Daly played a casual round in front of cameras without a shirt. Or shoes.


On the strength of his win at the Buick Invitational, Daly was named the 2004 PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year.


Daly has jokingly suggested that his life inspired the film Tin Cup. It certainly inspired this 2016 TV special, which stars the comedian Jon Daly as the golfer John Daly in a deadpan spoof of Shell’s Wonderful of Golf.


Daly uses blades. His now ex-wife, Sherrie Miller, used a knife. A steak knife, to be precise. So claimed Daly, who showed up for his second round at the Stanford St. Jude Championship with cuts and scrapes across his face that he said resulted from Miller’s attack.


No, they didn’t fit him for a green jacket. (Can you imagine?!) But he did finish third at the 1993 Masters, his best showing ever in the event.


Call it the other tradition unlike any other. When the Masters rolls around, Daly makes a habit of parking his RV at Hooters down the road from Augusta National, where he sells autographed merchandise.


Then again, who needs to autograph merchandise when there are so many female body parts to sign.


Of his five victories on the PGA Tour, the 1994 BellSouth Classic was, Daly said, the first title he won sober.


What do a drunken frat boy and David Feherty have in common? Daly has used both in his signature trick shot: banging a tee ball out of a willing subject’s mouth.


And let’s not forget that 16-ounce can of Coors Light, Daly’s other favorite substitute for a standard tee.


In Daly’s dizzyingly up and down career, the good, the bad and the ugly have often intertwined. There was, for instance, the $10 million endorsement deal with Wilson, which Daly signed after winning the 1991 PGA Championship, but which the company dropped after the ’97 Players Championship, where Daly went on a drinking spree that gave way to an alleged hotel-trashing incident. Daly withdrew from that tournament and two days later checked into rehab.


When your life is like a country song, you might as well compose the soundtrack. With that, we give you the aptly titled My Life, Daly’s first studio album, which he released in 2002.


Proving that he isn’t just a one-hit wonder, Daly has continued producing music, singing back-up in the Kid Rock song “Half Your Age,” in 2007, and releasing his second album, I Only Know One Way, in 2010.


#IMNOTGAY was a surprising hashtag message for a golfer who’s been married to four different women. But Daly felt compelled to post it in 2013 after a BBC reporter mistakenly swapped his name for the openly gay British Olympic diver Tom Daley. “Not coming out of closet because I haven’t been in one,” Daly tweeted. Besides, with that wardrobe, it would be tough to hide.


You know you’ve really made it when you’re in a video game. Our man has been-there, done-that with John Daly’s Prostroke Golf, which hit the market in 2010.


Struggling with his putter at the 2002 Australian PGA, Daly punctuated his second round by flinging the offending flatstick into a pond beside the 18th green. He was later disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard.


After pushing a drive into a bush at the 2008 Australian Open, Daly snatched a spectator’s camera and smashed it against a tree. This time, though, he wasn’t penalized Down Under. Tournament organizers determined that the fan was in the wrong, having violated the conditions of entry by bringing a camera onto the grounds.


Daly is no dummy. But over the years, a few of his fans have seemed like worthy candidates for a Darwin Award.


Some people kiss and tell. Others heavy-pet, then publish, as in Daly’s 2006 memoir “My Life In and Out of the Rough,” which includes bedroom scene that would make Christian Grey blush.


A new car! No wait. Competing in the pro-am at the 2014 Humana Challenge, Daly appeared to win a $60,000 Hyundai Equus when he jarred his tee shot on the par-3 7th hole. Just one problem: The ace had come on a mulligan, and so the new wheels went away.


During a 2014 trip to South Africa, a surprise encounter with a spitting cobra became entertaining fodder for Daly’s Twitter feed.


One of many low points in Daly’s struggle with alcohol takes place in 2008 at a Hooters in Winston-Salem, N.C., where paramedics found the golfer passed out. Police were summoned, Daly spent the night in jail, and an ignominious mug shot made its way into the world.


No one would deny that Daly has had problems, just as no one would dispute that he has a ton of heart. Among his many generous gestures: donating $30,000 to the family of a man who was killed by a lightning strike during the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick. What’s more, Daly never sought attention for his gift.


A particularly rough patch came to a head in late 1993, when Daly was suspended from the PGA Tour after walking off the course in the middle of play at the Kapalua International. It was the sad end to a year that also saw him enter an alcohol rehab program.


Drives aren’t the only things he smokes. But no worries. As Daly pointed out last year, after suffering a collapsed lung in the middle of a tournament: “I only smoke two packs of cigarettes a day, not three, so I’ll be alright.”


Life doesn’t begin at 50. But second careers do. Buckle up, golf fans. Long John will make his Champions tour debut at the Insperity Invitational near Houston in May. We can’t wait.


During a lengthy rain delay at the 2008 PODS Championship, Daly ducked into a hospitality tent beside the 11th hole and emerged with a new looper on his bag: Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden.


Usually, it’s the golfer who fires the swing coach. Not so for Daly, who was cut loose by Butch Harmon in 2008. “The most important thing in his life is getting drunk,” Harmon said, by way of explanation. As Daly saw it, Harmon’s “lies” about his behavior “destroyed my life for a little bit.”


Daly has never pretended to be perfect. Nor has he proved to be especially patient. One of his infamously short-fused moments came during the final round at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, where Daly struck a putt from behind the 8th green, only to have the ball trundle back to him. When it happened again, Daly whacked the ball while it was still rolling, knocking it across the green and incurring a two-stroke penalty. He wound up with an 11 on the hole.


June, 2000. Another U.S. Open, another meltdown. This time during the first round at Pebble Beach, where Daly dumped three balls in the ocean and one in a backyard on his way to making a 14 on the par-5 18th hole. He withdrew from the tournament, having posted a one-day score of 83.


Sounds like a tall tale. In fact, it’s a long one. People used to say that no one could reach the 630-yard par-five 17th hole at Baltusrol in two shots. But during the second round of the 1993 U.S. Open, that’s just what Daly did, becoming the first player on record to pull off the feat.


Close, but no cigarette. At the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Daly fought his way into a playoff against Tiger Woods before falling on the second extra hole to the then top-ranked player in the world.


With a clutch shot from a greenside bunker on the first hole of a playoff against Luke Donald and Chris Riley, Daly won the 2004 Buick Invitational — his first victory since the 1995 British Open.


Easy come, easier go. With that second-place finish at the WGC, Daly took in $750,000, then gave it all away, and more, in Las Vegas, where, as he acknowledged later, he lost $1.65 million, most of it in slots, $600,000 of it in 30 minutes. Yes, $600K in 30 minutes.


Golf had rarely seen a more delicious contrast than the trailer park kid on the ancient track. But that’s what the game got at the 1995 British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews. Bookmakers had Daly at 66-1. Little did they know how much he’d love the layout. Gobbling up the par-5s while inhaling Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate-chocolate chip muffins (the better to combat the sugar cravings induced by his withdrawal from alcohol), Daly claimed the Claret Jug, his second major, with a playoff win over Constantino Rocca. A huge victory, for sure, but it wasn’t going to change him. Asked mid-week what he might do if he won the event and R&A invited him to join their club, Daly replied: “I ain’t joinin’ if there’s rules and crap. I hate them rules and crap.” Which only made the masses love him all the more.


Out of obscurity and into the limelight. With a neck-warmer hairdo and a take-no-prisoners swing, Daly announced himself to the world by gripping and ripping his way to a three-shot victory at the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana, an event he entered as the 9th alternate after Nick Price withdrew to await the birth of his first child. “I had never heard of him,” recalled Ken Anderson, who oversaw the PGA’s alternates list. “I had to go look him up in a PGA Tour player guide.” No need for such research today.