And every time Daly went out to play while he was still drunk from the night before, Rick Ross, his teacher, would say to himself, "Lord, let him shoot 85." Instead Daly would shoot around 67.
Maybe that's why the sight of a sober John Daly is giving a lot of green-eyed Tour players the shakes these days. If this haystack of a kid could win the 1991 PGA Championship out of the trunk of his car and set a new record for rookie money winnings and be named Rookie of the Year and the next year win the B.C. Open by six shots, all while he was up to his eyeballs in Michelob, how unbeatable would he be sober? If he was the No. 1 draw in golf as Troubled Youth, how much would the people love him as Courageous Recovering Alcoholic?
"I know there's a lot of guys would love to see me fail," Daly says. "Well, good. Let 'em. I'm glad."
Already this season, only 150-plus days into sobriety, there are signs of how scary-good Daly can be: A 66 on the sidewalk-narrow fairways of The Players Championship. Third at the Masters. Starting to actually read putts. And only 27 years old. Good gracious. What has rehab wrought?
And what a strange rehab it is. Typical Daly—he's trying it without a net. It is April, and he is sitting in, of all places, a giant country and western bar in New Orleans called Mudbug's. The dance floor is your basic par-5. Two of his friends, Blake Allison and Sean Pacetti, sit on adjacent stools. Daly's heavy-metal haircut is a little long, and he's getting seriously undertall for his weight, owing to the six-pack of peanut M&M's he puts away every couple of hours to calm his sugar cravings. Yeah, you drink an average of 16 beers a day for months and suddenly stop, sugar cravings aren't uncommon. Daly's caddie, Greg Rita, reports somewhat mournfully, "The other day in a Shootout, he ate six bags in a hole and a half."
Daly stacks three packs of Marlboros in front of him neatly. He takes out a stack of bills from his money clip and sets them in front of him, also neatly. Allison has rum, Pacetti has a Bud, but Daly has a Diet Coke. Lord, docs the man have Diet Coke. So far today he has had 14 cans of it. For the first bill, $7.25, he gives the waitress a 20 and pushes the change back at her. "Just keep 'em comin'," he says. You drink hard ever since you were in high school, you want to keep your hands busy.
Hard? John Daly still does everything the hard way. O.K., you think you 're going to make it? Let's see you not drink in the biggest bar in Louisiana. He loves the challenge. He is a reformed pickpocket at a baggy-suit convention. He sits on his stool and never gets up, slugging down DCs and burning down those Marlboros, just one frosty mug away from trouble. The war inside Daly carries on.
You think you can make it hard on me? Not as hard as I make it on myself.
"Seems I used to do everything like I was on a mission," he says. "If it was alcohol, I wanted to drink till I couldn't see straight. If it was golf, I wanted to beat everybody's brains out. If it was driving, I can get there faster'n you can. It's not anybody's fault, I guess. I was stubborn as hell. I had no direction."
Since his wham-bans three-week drive-thru rehab in Tucson in January, Daly hasn't been to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and has no plans to attend one. "How long can you sit and listen to somebody else's problems?" he says. "Can you see me all pumped up to play golf the next day in a tournament, and then some guy starts talking about how he got drunk and killed his best friend? I'd be too depressed to pick up a club. I've got my own program."