The cause may be what he describes as a case of burnout from all the overseas tournaments he has entered for hefty appearance fees. "I had the opportunity to set myself up financially, and I did. But I paid the price," he says. Daly promises that next year, other than a trip to Australia for two tournaments early in the season, his only trip abroad will be to the British Open, a decision that he says will cost him more than $1 million in guarantees. "If I have one piece of advice for Tiger, it's stay home," says Daly, who intends to play as many as 28 Tour events in 1997.
But there are other reasons that Daly may be down. By his own admission he's 20 pounds overweight at 220, and he's still smoking, eating junk food and gambling to excess. "I'm addicted to everything I do," he says, adding that he plans to seek professional help. "I'm a guy who's either going to go full bore or I'm not going to do it at all."
That's why so many of his fans were disappointed to learn that he had fallen off the wagon. In October, Daly issued a press release through the Tour stating that he was drinking again after more than 3½ years of sobriety. The release was intended to quell rumors that he was bingeing, but the admission was seen as bad news by rehabilitation professionals and recovering alcoholics. "When I read that, it just made me furious," says one longtime counselor who requested that his name not be used. "Anybody who cares about John would not say this is O.K. What I read was about denial and rationalization and relapse. Alcoholism is a disease of relapse. The man is going down the wrong path."
Daly justifies his return to drinking as an experiment that served a useful purpose. He ended what he contends was a three-year, seven-month and four-day period of sobriety on Aug. 4, the Sunday of the Volvo Scandinavian Masters in Kungsbacka, Sweden, after finishing 18th. Sitting with him were his agent, John Mascatello, Rita and a close friend from boyhood, Donnie Crabtree. "I had a bottle of beer open, sitting there between my legs, and I just pondered it for about five minutes," says Daly. "They were all looking at me, nervous to see what would happen. Then I took a swig, and they all couldn't believe it. It's funny, though. The first sensation wasn't anything. I ended up having three beers."
Says Mascatello, "I was obviously shocked. It was painful to see."
Daly says he decided to drink because "the whole time I was going through sobriety, I was thinking, Man, it would be great to have a beer. It was something that was always over my shoulder. I had to find out." Daly estimates that over the next seven weeks, he had about 18 beers and never more than three at a time. Then, he says, he abruptly quit again. "It wasn't even a big deal," he insists. "I was sitting at the house [in Memphis] alone on a Saturday or Sunday, watching some games. I'd had a couple of beers and thought, You know, I don't want this. I don't even want it."
Daly has since come to a more elaborate conclusion. "There's just no reason for me to drink again," he says. "My life is not going in that direction. My life is to play golf, sit home with the wife and kids and do things with the family more than I used to. Luckily for me and my family, I found out it doesn't taste good to me anymore."
But Daly stopped short of saying that he's through with alcohol. "I can say that I'm going to stop, but I can't say that I'm going to quit," he says. "You can never say you're going to quit."
Daly seems content that the episode is over and that he's in control. Observers familiar with alcohol addiction say the opposite is almost certainly true. "When I heard about John's latest attempt to be a social drinker, it just made me sad," said a man in Daly's gallery at Kapalua who described himself as a recovering alcoholic. "He still thinks that he's different from other people. He has not accepted that alcohol is bigger than he is, that he's helpless against it. Until he does, he's headed for another blowout."
Although Daly attended Sierra Tucson, an addiction treatment center, for three weeks in 1993, he hasn't attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Daly says he's not even sure that he's an alcoholic. "I don't know if alcoholic is the right name for my case," he says. "That's the hardest thing I was trying to go through those three years: Am I really an alcoholic? Or am I just allergic to alcohol? Is it the same thing? That's something I'd like to find out."