British Open: Wild Thing’s back, and angry
By Jim Litke
SOUTHPORT, England ó John Daly was 1-under Wednesday at the British Open without even picking up a golf club.
That is, he got under the skin of one of his former coaches, swing guru Butch Harmon, who cut Daly loose in March after saying he was devoting too much time and effort to partying and too little to practicing.
“I think his lies kind of destroyed my life for a little bit,” Daly, a two-time major champion, said during a wide-ranging news conference on the eve of the tournament.
“I don’t know what his problem is,” Daly added, “but he needs to stay as far away from me as he possibly can.”
Daly said Harmon’s comments cost him endorsements and caused him considerable pain, in part because they echoed the criticism he caught early in his career about being lazy, occasionally reckless and often turning to alcohol in the face of mounting problems.
But Daly insisted his reputation was overblown, despite recent evidence to the contrary. He was seen in one video at a Branson, Mo., golf course that bears his name wearing only a cap and blue jeans ó no shoes, socks or shirt ó while playing with a local TV anchor. In another video, he appears in a Flint, Mich., pro-am with rocker Kid Rock and hits a ball off the top of a full beer can, spraying foam around the tee box.
“I’m eating too much, but I’m not drinking hardly at all, and I never go out,” Daly said. “So it’s funny to just sit back and look at it. I guess that’s just the way my life is going to be for a long time because of my past.”
Harmon, though, wasn’t in the mood to apologize for anything he said about his former pupil. He’d worked with Daly only three times this year, but said there was no chance he could help him improve without a real commitment.
“I’m sorry JD feels that way. I like JD,” Harmon said at the practice range after hearing about Daly’s comments. “He’s a good guy. But he needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for his actions instead of blaming everybody else.”
The incident that led Harmon to dump Daly came during the PODS Championship. Daly ducked into a Hooters corporate tent during a 21/2-hour rain delay in the first round, already 3 over, and when play resumed, he’d replaced his caddie with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden. Daly shot 77, then followed that up with an 80 and missed the cut.
Harmon said the caddie swap “made a circus of the event,” but saved his real ire for Daly’s weekend antics. With Saturday off, Daly turned up at the Hooters “Owl’s Nest” lounge at the course, drinking beer with fans and signing autographs.
“My whole goal for him was he’s got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life,” Harmon said in March. “And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”
The next week, Daly was kicked out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational for missing his tee time in the pro-am, triggering a tour rule that automatically makes players who miss the pro-am ineligible to play the regular tournament. Daly blamed a woman in the tournament office for giving him the wrong starting time.
He also said Wednesday that Gruden offered to caddie at the PODS Championship after Daly’s regular bag-toter was hurt, and that his Saturday appearance at the Hooters lounge was at the behest of tournament officials, hoping he could help raise more money for charity.
“I just wish he wouldn’t have said the things he did that made you guys write some pretty bad things about me when not really anybody had the facts,” Daly said. “That kind of hurt me a little bit.”
Daly lost his full PGA Tour card two years ago and relies mainly on sponsor exemptions to play tournaments. His last win came in 2004, and he blamed injuries for the steady decline in his play since. He said he decided to play here against his doctor’s advice.
“I’ve got tendinitis in my left elbow, and I had a cyst in my right hand … that we thought was arthritis. So it’s just been one thing after another,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to playing.”