Time on Tour is running out for Daly

John Daly will return to the PGA Tour next month after a six-month suspension, the second time the Tour has suspended him for unbecoming conduct.

John Daly will return to the PGA Tour next month after a six-month suspension, the second time the Tour has suspended him for unbecoming conduct.

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John Daly has seen this act before.

At two tournaments during his European Tour vacation this month, Daly played the first two rounds with Alvaro Quiros, the big basher from Spain. Quiros hits driver whenever he can, sometimes when he shouldn’t.

“We had a blast in Italy,” Daly said. “When he got a hold of one, it was a good ways past me. On one hole, we both crushed it, and it was close. I think he was impressed the old man could get it up to him. I mean, I’ve only got him by what, 20 years?”

Quiros is 26, not that young. Daly is 43, and at times must feel much older.

For years, Daly was the epitome of the long ball. He introduced “Grip It and Rip It” when he won the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate. That was 18 years ago, and so much has transpired since.

Daly will return to the PGA Tour next month after a six-month suspension, the second time the Tour has suspended him for unbecoming conduct. Two other times, he agreed to sit out to get his life in order. He has been to alcohol rehab twice and is going through his third divorce. He wrote an autobiography that was as much about drinking, sex and gambling as it was about his golf. He also managed to win another major — at St. Andrews, no less — and remains optimistic about his future.

For how much longer?

“As long as I can swing and breathe,” Daly said.

But he is running out of time. At his age, he won’t have many more opportunities. Daly has been around too long, and his act has worn thin with too many people.

Have an NFL coach caddie for you after a rain delay? Been there. Use a beer can to tee up your ball in a pro-am? Done that.

The train wrecks?

He had an 11 on one hole in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and a 14 on the closing hole at Pebble Beach a year later. His personal high is an 18 on the sixth hole at Bay Hill.

Giving up on rounds?

Daly has shot in the 80s more than 50 times on the PGA Tour, but there’s more. Since his rookie season in 1991, he has made it through only one season (1996) without a round in the 80s. And it’s not like certain courses get the best of him. Daly has shot in the 80s at 25 different tournaments. And that’s just the PGA Tour.

Most players don’t have a problem with Daly, beyond disappointment to see so little out of so much talent.

“I just walked through the range, and there’s 50 people just standing behind, watching what he does,” Paul Casey said last week from Wentworth. “I think it’s great. It brings something to this golf course, brings something to every golf tournament he plays in.”

One reason Daly continues to get exemptions is because few other players move the needle.

The St. Jude Championship offered him a chance June 11 in Memphis, Tenn., near where Daly lives. He also said the Buick Open gave him an exemption at the end of July, and Daly is exempt at the British Open and PGA Championship as a past champion.

“The game is not just about talent, it’s about confidence,” he said. “And with my golf game, I’ve got to have confidence to play well. I don’t think I wasted my talent. I just don’t think I ever had the confidence to be consistent.”

Even so, the time away from the PGA Tour might have sounded a few alarms.

When he first lost his PGA Tour card after the 2006 season, Daly had so many sponsor exemptions that he had to turn them down. Now, he goes through the list of tournaments wondering where he can get in. John Deere? Canada? Hartford?

“You get complacent when you think you’ve got all these years ahead of you,” he said. “Now I know that I may not play the Tour if something good doesn’t happen. It’s making me work harder.”

The immediate appeal of Daly is that he was banned from the Tour for six months. That makes him a novelty. He has lost 50 pounds through a lap-band surgery. He is wearing trousers from Loudmouth Golf that are, well, loud.

For someone with only five PGA Tour victories, Daly has managed to keep his name in the news for nearly two decades — sometimes for his golf, usually for incidents outside the ropes. He says he is working hard and getting his life in order. Even those who want to believe him are not sure how long that will last.

For now, Daly must treat this next chance the way he did his first chance. Before he lets it rip, he needs to get a grip.

Because ultimately, only his golf can save him.

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