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What Are You Doing Here?
April 16, 2007
For only the fourth time in 16 years, John Daly failed to qualify for the Masters, but he didn't let that bump in the road keep him from his people during tournament week in Augusta
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April 16, 2007

What Are You Doing Here?

For only the fourth time in 16 years, John Daly failed to qualify for the Masters, but he didn't let that bump in the road keep him from his people during tournament week in Augusta

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The masters rookie approached the two-time major winner last Thursday looking for advice. "I'm Dave Womack," said the 28-year-old from McDonough, Ga., sticking out his hand. "I won the U.S. Mid-Amateur and played in the Masters today. What do you do after you shoot an 84?"

John Daly's response was quick and predictable. "Go get drunk, man," he said. "Might as well enjoy yourself." All those within earshot roared with laughter.

For most of Daly's 17 years on the PGA Tour, such an exchange during Masters week would've taken place in the Augusta National clubhouse or on the practice tee. This year it happened exactly 1.7 miles from Magnolia Lane, in a parking lot on Washington Road. Daly, now a lowly 229th in the World Ranking and a nonqualifier for the tournament for the first time since 2003, nevertheless spent the entire week in Augusta. There, every night from six to eight, he signed autographs, posed for pictures and sold hats, T-shirts, flags and other assorted Team Lion--branded merchandise from a trailer parked beside a Hooters restaurant. And Womack, like a kid at a sideshow, was simply one more fan filing by to gawk at the one, the only Long John.

Daly gave the people what they came to see, chain-smoking Marlboros, knocking back bottles of Miller Lite and trading bawdy jokes for hours as he signed whatever was put in front of him. When a man handed him a risqu� Hooters T-shirt, Daly looked down at the scantily clad waitress on it and asked, "Do you want me to sign her [breasts]?" When another fan asked him if he felt old, Daly, 41 on April 28, came back with, "We only feel as old as the women we feel." After someone told Daly that he saw him make an 18 on a hole at Bay Hill, Daly said, "Oh, yeah, I missed that four-footer for a 17. Hey, we're all human, man."

Daly knows his demographic, so he was not surprised to see the traffic at his trailer, which had filled the parking lot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (the practice-round days), fall off dramatically once the tournament began and the more staid patrons arrived. "Thursday is like the changing of the guard," said Tod Dundas, a regional manager for Hooters brought in for Masters week. "The blue-collar crowd goes home, and the business crowd comes in."

the juxtaposition of Daly swilling and smoking in a parking lot while the year's first major was being contested mere blocks away did lead to some awkward moments. On Thursday a well-oiled fan handed Daly a hat to sign and asked, "How'd you do today?"

"I'm not playing," Daly answered.

When the fan guffawed and asked, "What's your problem?" Daly responded with a wan smile.

Another man handed Daly his cellphone and asked him to say hello to his girlfriend. Daly complied. Long pause. Then he said into the phone, "I didn't play, baby. I didn't get in this year."

A woman pushed a hat in front of Daly and said, "We're glad you're here."

As he signed, Daly lifted his chin toward the tall Georgia pines swaying less than two miles in the distance and said, "I'd rather be over there."

As usual, Daly was staying in his tricked-out RV, which he had parked a few hundred feet from Hooters. During a quiet moment there on Friday afternoon he admitted that spending the week in Augusta without being in the field was not as easy as he was making it look. "It's eating the living s--- out of me," he said. "I've never done anything like this before, but I'll probably do it every year whether I'm in [the Masters] or not. It's good for the fans, it's good for Hooters, and it's good for me."

Daly palled around with the guys from TaylorMade, one of his sponsors, but besides Hooters duty, his only regular obligation was a meet-and-greet with the folks from 84 Lumber each day. He also got over to Sage Valley Golf & Hunt Club in Graniteville, S.C., twice to play a few holes, but he didn't once set foot on the grounds at Augusta National. By Friday he was sufficiently bored to show up two hours early for his Hooters shift, and he occasionally glanced at the small TV in the trailer showing the Masters.

Someone asked if it was hard to watch. "No, it's boring," Daly said. "I don't like watching golf on TV. I'd rather play."

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