John Daly Sets The Tone For This Week’s PGA Championship By Ripping Cigs On The Driving Range

John Daly
NBC

John Daly is more like a folk hero in the mold of Paul Bunyan than he is a serious professional golfer. Although he’s underachieved on the course and squandered untold amounts of talent, Daly is nevertheless a two-time major champion, and has a lifetime exemption into the PGA Championship since he won the Wanamaker Trophy in 1991 as the ninth alternate. One of the most improbable major triumphs in the history of golf.

Part of why Daly is so celebrated is how relatable he is to any given fan. He’s just your standard, solid-citizen American who wants to play golf, drink booze, and smoke heaters. On the driving range at Valhalla on Tuesday, Long John was swinging his trademark way-past-parallel swing with a lit cigarette.

Now that’s multitasking at its finest. At least the slick shades Daly is rocking can help keep the smoke out of his eyes. That’s always a bit of a hazard and impediment if you’re trying to keep your eye on the ball. With the many thousands of swings Daly has taken over the years, though, he’s had plenty of practice to overcome such trivial hurdles. Can’t allow something like a golf shot get in the way of chiefing a dart, am I right?

A lot of athletes do their best to take care of their bodies, minds and spirits so they’re in the most clear headspace at the most important tournaments or games. Golfers do qualify as athletes, and look no further than Tiger Woods to see how much such a level of dialed-in focus can pay dividends. When it comes to John Daly, however, he’s of the “drink the same sh*t you drank the night before” school of thought on hangover cures, couldn’t care less about the known health risks that come with smoking cigarettes, and doesn’t exactly keep himself in peak physical condition. Hence why he’s so universally beloved.

At 58 years old, having recovered from bladder cancer, Daly is showing no signs of slowing down on his fast lifestyle. There’s something a little sad about that. But also endearing. But also frustratingly stubborn. One thing’s for sure: John Daly is going to do things his way, and does not care what anyone thinks about it. That has to be a pretty cool headspace to be in.

Daly hasn’t made the cut at the PGA Championship since 2012, when he finished tied for 18th. He’s coming off a tie for 60th on the Champions Tour. It’s doubtful he’ll find the magic to get to the weekend at Valhalla. Nevertheless, I hope we get at least a few shots of him on the TV broadcast. Never get tired of seeing him grip it and rip it — and I’m referring to both drivers and cigarettes when I say that. Although my lungs wheeze on his behalf. Throwing it back to the glory days of ’91 to close this thang out.

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