Friday, May 29, 2009

SPORTS >> Rationalizations and shortcuts not answer for Daly

Leader sports editor

I’ve written this column before. In fact, this must be about the 10th incarnation of it.

It is just the latest stop in the ongoing saga known as The John Daly Re-resurrection Tour.

When we last stumbled across the immensely talented, immensely troubled Arkansas native, Daly was passed out outside a Hooter’s restaurant in North Carolina. That seems about right for John: Bad food, lots of booze and plenty of women with whom he might begin another bound-for-destruction relationship.

Daly, of course, maintained that the ‘incident’ was no incident, claiming merely that he had dozed off. And he’s right in a way.

In Daly’s World, passing out publicly at a Hooter’s barely registers a blip. After all, this is the guy whose implosions would make a demolition crew blush, who seemingly has been divorced more times than he’s been married, whose two amazing, improbable major victories are somehow eclipsed by his even more spectacular on-course misdeeds.

Listing all of the unseemly incidents Daly’s been involved in since his stunning emergence onto the golf scene with his PGA win in 1991 would use up all the space available on this page. Besides, everyone knows them. A quick summation, though, includes public drunkenness, domestic assault, alcohol rehabilitation stints, gambling debts, more drinking, divorces, separations, more divorces, hitting balls off beer cans at PGA tournaments, hitting the golf ball while it was still rolling, disqualifications, lightening quick final rounds that he was clearly just mailing in, talk of suicide, weight gains, shaking and crying during a tournament, lost endorsements, PGA Tour bans, missed cut after missed cut, near bankruptcy and more.

There must be an entire country and western album in that list.

Daly has re-emerged again of late. I saw him last week in an interview following the second round of the BMW Championship in England. Daly is currently suspended from the PGA Tour for the second time in his career. What I heard was encouraging.

He seemed earnest about his game, seemed focused, seemed to actually care.

His final two rounds were 77-75 and he finished 25 strokes off the pace. Poor finishes (Daly shot 73-71 the first two rounds) raise red flags. Daly is notorious for starting strong and, after enduring a hardship or two on the weekend, barely finishing the tournament.

Yet, that didn’t appear to be the case last weekend. You want to hope that Daly can finally get it together. You want to pull for him. He seems to be, after all, a decent fellow with a big heart.

But it’s time for him to grow up and face a few hard facts.

His comments in an Associated Press story earlier this week do not seem encouraging. Though the PGA doesn’t ever officially announce that a player has been suspended, it appears that the suspension has been lifted. Not everyone gets three chances and it would behoove Daly to seize this latest one.

But Daly responded to the lifting of the ban by suggesting he didn’t deserve it in the first place. This is the same mindset that allows him to rationalize his alcoholism and his other excesses.

In the story, Daly’s agent expressed cautious optimism that Big John had maybe turned the corner.

But it’s pretty clear he still doesn’t get it. The same story went on to say that Daly, who is undeniably an alcoholic, continues to drink. Pathetically and revealingly, Daly says he is not drinking as much and merely sipping rather than gulping his cocktails.

Controlled drinking is most assuredly not the solution for Daly if only for the obvious reason that alcoholics can’t control drink. Inevitably, those sips will become swallows and those swallows will once again become gulps and Daly will be found wallowing in another pool of his own self-destruction.

Short cuts are not the answer to Daly’s problems; maturity is. Just as his sipping booze demonstrates he isn’t there yet, his choice of lap band surgery to lose weight reveals him unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to get his game and his life together.

His agent said Daly “is not taking as many short cuts” as he has in the past, but what is lap band surgery if not a short cut, an unwillingness to curb one’s appetites and, once and for all, become an adult?

Here’s keeping our fingers crossed that somehow, some way, Daly will discover the path to success and happiness, or at least just a little peace.

On the course as in his life, he might find it wise to lay up once in a while. It may not be the most thrilling choice, but it might just put him in position to land safely on the green.