Monday, April 1, 2002
Updated: March 5, 6:17 PM ET
Daly Won '91 PGA As Tour Rookie
By Bob Carter
Special to ESPN.com
Aug. 8-11, 1991 -- Fifteen hours before the start of the PGA Championship, tour rookie John Daly learned he had climbed from ninth alternate for the event to first. He immediately drove from Memphis to the Crooked Stick course outside Indianapolis and found that he was in the field, that he had replaced Nick Price, who was waiting the birth of his first child.
Daly, who had no time for practice and had never seen the course, shot a three-under-par 69 in the first round. Belting drives well over 300 yards -- he was first on the tour in driving distance and 185th in driving accuracy -- Daly found the 7,289-yard course, second-longest in PGA history, a perfect fit.
"Good gracious, what a coil, what an unleashing of power," said Jack Nicklaus after watching Daly.
The 25-year-old from Arkansas shot a second-round 67 to take the lead for good. He built his advantage to as many as five strokes as he finished with rounds of 69 and 71 and beat Bruce Lietzke by three shots.
He had 21 birdies and an eagle over the four days, finishing at 12-under 276 and winning $230,000, well over the $166,590 he had earned the rest of the year. "I came to the PGA tournament with nothing to lose," he said, "and that had everything to do with winning it."
The day after the golfer's victory, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton honored him by declaring that Monday "John Daly Day."
Odds 'n' Ends
At ages 8 and 9, Daly twice gained the semifinals of the NFL's national Punt, Pass and Kick competition. As a senior at Helias High School in Jefferson City, Mo., he was the kicker on the 10-0 football team.
As a sophomore, he set a school record with a four-under-par score in a nine-hole match. The next season, he shot a five-under for 36 holes for another school mark.
As a teenager, Daly played several seasons on the American Junior Golf Association circuit. In 1984, at 18, he teamed with Brian Watts to win the Future Legends of Golf Championship.
The 5-foot-11 Daly began drinking heavily in high school and eating poorly. He gained almost 60 pounds in less than two years, his weight rising to 220.
He returned to Dardanelle, Ark., in his senior year, establishing residency so he could get an in-state golf scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
Among his college highlights was a 14th-place finish in the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore, which included a course-record round of 65.
At 20, Daly qualified for the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y. His first-round score was 18-over-par, and he missed the cut by 14 strokes.
In his first pro tournament, the 1987 Missouri Open, he scored a four-stroke victory and earned $6,000.
After receiving a sponsor's exemption into the PGA's St. Jude Classic in Memphis in 1989, he made the cut and tied for 64th. He met Fuzzy Zoeller there, and the two became good friends.
He won two pro tournaments in Africa in 1990, the AECI Charity Classic and Hollard Royal Swazi Classic.
Daly twice hit into pro Jeff Roth with shots during the final round of the 1994 World Series of Golf in Akron, Ohio. Daly shot an 83 and afterward fought with Roth's angry 62-year-old father.
In the early 1990s he befriended former Dallas Cowboys star Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, a recovering addict. Henderson became Daly's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and once gave him this advice: "It's none of your business what other people think about you."
In 1995, Daly upset his fellow pros by publicly suggesting that there was substantial drug abuse on the PGA Tour.
When he captured the 1995 British Open title, he became the fourth American since World War II to win two majors before his 30th birthday. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller were the first three.
Daly has picked up his ball at numerous tournaments after poor play, building a reputation as a golfer who gives up. "I always felt like if I couldn't win," he said, "I'm not playing for second."
In March 1997, he withdrew from the Honda Classic and Players Championship, both times citing a sore hip.
Daly and Laura Davies won the 1999 JCPenney Classic in a playoff over Paul Azinger and Se Ri Pak.
At the 2001 Honda Classic one of his drives measured 387 yards. His longest reported drive ever: 440 yards.
Daly, who doesn't like flying, bought a customized bus for travel in 2001 and usually drives it himself between Tour stops. The bus is 45 feet long and cost about $1.4 million.
Daly has two daughters from previous marriages, Shynah Hale (born in 1992) and Sierra Lynn (born in 1995). His fourth wife, Sherrie Miller, has a toddler son. The couple had a son, John Patrick, in July 2003.
Five days later, Miller Daly and her parents were charged in a federal indictment alleging they were involved in a drug ring and an illegal gambling operation.
In 2003, Daly averaged a career-best 314.3 yards off the tee, but failed to win his ninth consecutive driving crown. Rookie Hank Kuehne averaged 321.4 yards.
In 2006, Daly finished 193rd on the PGA Tour's money list and lost his tour card.