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Bertrand Russell once called drunkenness "temporary suicide." But with John Daly, you were never quite sure. Was he just trying to kill himself or everybody else? Take intersections, for instance. One night, with about a dozen Jack Daniel's riding shotgun, he got mad and mobile and went flying through 17 straight red lights. Is that the standing record for failed suicide attempts? In the next seat his buddy swallowed hard and tried to keep from cutting into the dash with his fingernails.
You want to hurt me? Wrong. I'll hurt myself first.
Daly's wife, Bettye, remembers one afternoon last year when he'd played lousy. She was in the car with their new baby, Shynah. John was brooding and stepping on it. They came to a fairly busy intersection. He wasn't slowing down. She looked at him. He didn't look back. She warned him about the red. He saw it. He never let up on the gas. Bettye screamed. They made it through. "If that's not depressed," says Bettye, "what is?"
Was it the drinking that brought out all the anger, or was it the anger that brought out all the drinking? One night in a bar in St. Augustine, Fla., the glass Daly was holding suddenly shattered from the sheer ferocity of his grip. What was inside him that he wouldn't let out? Sober, John Daly was one of the quietest, nicest guys you ever met. He wouldn't say boo to you if you walked up and spit in his face. Only alcohol let you know how much rage was inside.
So you had to make double bogey at 18? So you had to gain weight? So your first marriage failed? Take that.
He once ripped the seat out of a friend's van in a blurry fit. Once snapped the rearview mirror out of a van and threw it out the window, and then put his fist through a side-view mirror. He filled two towels with blood that night and still wouldn't let anyone take him to the hospital. One thing about people who smash mirrors: They usually don't like what they're seeing. All you have to do is look at Daly's hands to see who he has punished the most. His fists are as scarred as a rose gardener's.
But what has never made sense is how those same wounded hands could also be two of the most buttery-soft in the game of golf. Even when he was still high from the previous night's carousing, Daly could play golf like an angel. Come to think of it, that was half the problem.
You think golf is hard? Try it seeing three balls instead of one. Try it with a buzz on. Try it waking up right before your tee time in a rental car in the clubhouse parking lot, wearing the same eau de Jack Daniel's you wore yesterday. Try it with cotton mouth and the whiskey shakes. Daly could play golf all these ways and more. He once played fresh from a hospital where a nurse had told him she'd never seen a .27% blood-alcohol count before.
Bad news, Mr. Daly. Some blood accidentally got into your alcoholstream.
Hard? John Daly did everything hard. Played in an alcohol fog plenty of times on the mini-tours and still kicked butt. Had a beer before he teed off at last year's Honda Classic; still made the cut. Fractured his right pinkie punching out a hotel room after the first round of a tournament in South Africa; still shot 21 under par and won the tournament. "Christ," he says, "most people'd be drunk two days on what I'd have before dinner."