The weekend after the Daytona 500, the redneck populace embraced Dale Jr. and put him on a pedestal. Why? Because his daddy done died on the same racetrack that Junior just tamed. If these NASCAR yokels had an ounce of common sense and weren't entertained by watching cars turn left all day, they would look beyond their beloved car-racing to find a true hero: golfer John Daly.
Daly is their guy, or at least he should be. He's a salt-of-the-earth kinda man whose trials and tribulations are the stuff from which Hollywood screenplays are made, a chain-smoking recovering alcoholic -- and to say that Daly has had women problems is like saying Rosie O'Donnell is just a little bit annoying. You might wonder how a manly undertaking like NASCAR compares to a sissy sport like golf. Well, let's look at the mental demands of each. NASCAR requires the driver to think, Turn left ... turn left ... turn left. Golf requires the athlete to keep in mind a number of mechanics: keeping the head down, getting the club to the top of the swing, rotating the wrists through the ball, shifting the weight from back foot to front. Now, imagine trying to keep all that in mind while fighting the urge to drink, to gamble, to beat your wife ... that can't possibly be easy.
But in order to gain a fuller and more profound appreciation for the creature that is John Daly, let's look at his PGA career:
August 1991 Wins PGA Championship at age 25.
December 1991 Trashes hotel room in South Africa while drunk.
June 1992 Forced off New York-bound plane in Denver after confrontation with stewardess while drunk.
September 1992 Wins B.C. Open.
Dec. 20, 1992 Charged with third-degree assault of then-wife Bettye.
Dec. 30, 1992 Enters Sierra Tucson rehab center in Arizona.
Jan. 29, 1993 Returns to competition in Phoenix Open.
April 1993 Receives divorce papers while at Masters.
May 24, 1993 Pleads guilty to harassment of Bettye; assault charge dropped.
November 1993 Picks up ball in second round of the Kapalua International after missing a birdie putt on No. 11 following double-bogeys on Nos. 7, 8 and 10. Suspended by PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman for three months.
August 1994 Scuffles with 62-year-old man after shooting 81 in final round of World Series of Golf.
September 1994 PGA Tour announces Daly agrees to sit out rest of year.
January 1995 Returns to PGA Tour.
July 1995 Wins British Open.
October 1996 Admits he is drinking again, calling it social drinking.
March 30, 1997 Says he will enter rehab.
April 8, 1997 Paulette Daly files for divorce.
April 28, 1997 Wilson Golf terminates Daly's contract. He later signs with Callaway.
June 13, 1997 Walks off the course after nine holes of the second round of the U.S. Open without informing his playing partners or USGA officials. Spokesmen insist it was not alcohol-related, saying he was exhausted and will take several weeks off.
Aug. 27, 1998 Gets a severe case of the shakes, breaks down and cries on the 15th green in first round of the Greater Vancouver Open. Finishes round, shoots 70 the next day but misses the cut by three strokes.
June 20, 1999 Swats a moving ball with his putter on No. 8 in the final round of the U.S. Open, taking an 11 on the hole and signing for an 81. Tells press, "This is my last U.S. Open -- ever. I've had it with the USGA and the way they run their tournaments."
June 22, 1999 Apologizes for his behavior and comments about the USGA.
Sept. 15, 1999 Callaway Golf terminates his contract, saying Daly violated an agreement not to drink or gamble.
June 15, 2000 Returning to the U.S. Open, shoots a 14 on the par-5 18th hole and withdraws after an opening-round 83. Dumps three balls into the Pacific Ocean, hits another into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.
June 2001 Meets Sherrie Miller during the St. Jude Classic.
August 2001 Marries Miller, his fourth wife.
Sept. 2, 2001 Closes with a 66 to win the BMW International Open in Germany by one shot over Padraig Harrington, his first victory since the British Open.
July 23, 2003 His wife delivers his first son.
July 28, 2003 His wife and her parents are indicted on federal drug and gambling charges.
Sept. 20, 2003 Hyperventilates on the 15th hole and withdraws from the 84 Lumber Classic. He was treated later for dehydration.
Feb. 15, 2004 Wins the Buick Invitational in a three-man playoff, his first PGA Tour victory in nine years.
Part of the thrill of watching John Daly is that you never know what's going to happen next. How can the NASCAR crowd embrace Junior while eschewing Daly? The spousal abuse, the drunken behavior, the three-pack-per-round cigarette habit, the gambling ... he's a man of the people! For crying out loud, John drives his RV to PGA tour events because he's just not crazy about flying!
Dale Jr. may be the prodigal son of the race car circuit, but John Daly is Everyman (or Everyhick) personified. Deep down, the powers who govern the PGA tour have to be thrilled that "Grip It and Rip It" Daly has overshadowed the boring and predictable Tiger Woods. John Daly's real-life drama makes golf infinitely more compelling, and it's a sure bet that you'll see some huge galleries following this guy ... as long as they're allowed to wear their wife-beaters and flip-flops.