But after years of following Daly's attempts to navigate the rocky road
of his alcoholism, fans watching him prepare for his first tournament since
abruptly leaving the U.S. Open say they are sticking with the 30-year-old
for something less tangible.
"I think he deserves another chance. I think he's good for the game.
Tiger Woods is good, but John Daly is still special for me because he's
coming from a lot of troubles," Fred Rafaniello, a 70-year-old retired
policeman from Inverness, Fla., said Tuesday.
Daly, slimmed to 198 pounds and saying he has been sober since March, is
expected to tee off Thursday at the TPC at River Highlands, site of this
week's Greater Hartford Open. He has not played on the tour in five weeks.
"I'm looking forward to this one, really to be back," he said.
Daly's golf bag carries more than just his clubs this time, bearing the
words "God, Serenity, Courage, Wisdom." He said he has been attending
Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as often as five days a week.
"Everybody for the last three years has been saying go out and have
fun. It's easy to say that," Daly said. "The only fun I used to
have is what got me suspended."
Daly was suspended in 1993 after quitting during the second round of the
Kapalua International. After fighting with a 62-year-old man at the World
Series of Golf in August 1994, he agreed to sit out the rest of the year.
He underwent alcohol rehabilitation for the second time in four years after
a drinking binge at the Players Championship in March.
The rocky road continued at the U.S. Open last month when he quit at the
turn in the second round. He said he withdrew because of shakes brought
on by anti-depressant medication.
Tennis, swimming and dieting have helped Daly shed more than 40 pounds in
He and caddie Brian Alexander arrived in Connecticut on Monday after a nearly
19-hour drive from Tennessee. They spent the previous three weeks working
on every aspect of Daly's game. The Daly that will tee off during Thursday's
first round is a more mellow man, Alexander said.
"It's all going to work out for the best," Alexander said.
There were no shakes Tuesday as a steady Daly, cigarette dangling from his
mouth, sank 10-foot putts on the practice green.
"The mental thing really wears on all of us to an extent," Daly
said. "It just kills your mind. Everyone thinks it's all glamorous
... It takes a lot out of each individual here."
On Tuesday, Daly played in a nine-hole Skins Game - paired with Fuzzy Zoeller
- and his walloping tee shots were once again crowd pleasers.
He out-drove the rest of the field, including defending champion D.A. Weibring
and Paul Azinger, by more than 20 yards with a 316-yard drive on the 411-yard
12th hole. On the 158-yard 11th, he put a 9-iron within five feet for a
birdie. The two won $8,000 of the $10,500 purse.
Bob Fluegel, a 52-year-old consultant from Glastonbury, said a family member
with a similar problem makes Daly important to him.
"My message to John is just hear the prayers because a lot of people
are praying for him," Fluegel said.