Barkeep, pour us another giant Slurpee and toss us half a dozen
Ding Dongs. Lend us a Marlboro and six or so of them Advil. Fill
up that ol' claret jug with Diet Coke, and let's everybody shave
each other's heads. We need to celebrate John Daly-style because
the Kid from the Wrong Side of the Country Club just went and
won himself a British Open at the Home of Golf is all.
So, what kind of odds would you have gotten that Daly would win
a four-hole playoff after the looniest episode ever witnessed at
the Royal and Annuitied Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland,
where a chunky Italian followed up the most famous chili dip in
golf history with a purely redeeming 65-foot putt from the
Valley of Sin? Who would sink their hard-earned pounds on a guy
dressed like a Sinclair blowup dinosaur, a guy with serial
migraines, 20 pounds too much gut, the chocolate d.t.'s, a
pack-a-round habit, two ex-wives and one non-ex, two PGA Tour
suspensions, two dead-last British Open finishes in his first
three tries and an addiction to swinging the driver from his
spikes even in winds you wouldn't leave your cat out in?
Actually, those odds were 66 to 1 with any British bookie before
the week started. Would've been a nice bet, because in a weird,
wonderful way it had seemed like Daly's week all along. "I don't
know," he kept saying. "There's just something about this golf
course I love.''
Let's see. Was it the fact that Daly drove six par-4s--3, 9, 10,
12, 16 and 18--and easily reached par-5s with iron second shots?
"He play spectacular," playing partner Seve Ballesteros gushed
on Friday. "There are no par-5s for him." Pause. "Well, there
are no par-4s for him either."
Or maybe it was the fine selection of vendors St. Andrews
offered from hole to hole. Daly tried them all. Battling sugar
cravings that stem from his ongoing recovery from alcoholism, he
was a consuming mass, a moveable feast, swallowing not only huge
chunks of yardage but also every Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate
chocolate-chip muffin the Old Course could sell him. "They're
those good kind," he said. "The kind you can get at Shell
stations back home."
He is the type who, if asked for directions to the DMV, might
say, "Go three Dairy Queens down this street, then turn left at
Haagen-Dazs. Take a left at Winchell's, and it's on the right,
just past Fudge-O-Rama." On Friday he ate four huge doughnuts on
the 8th tee, then a couple of Otis specials on the 10th, all
spiced with Diet Cokes and Marlboros and a nice migraine.
For the blue bloods of the R&A and the distinguished members of
the British golf establishment, it was like having Gomer Pyle
emcee the annual dinner. As Daly became a leader-board fixture,
you could just hear some crusty blazer on the R&A balcony
whisper, "If he should win, we won't have to invite him into the
lounge, will we?''
In fact, somebody asked Daly at midweek what he might do if he
won and was asked to join the R&A. "I ain't joinin' if there's
rules and crap," he said. "I hate them rules and crap." Besides,
he would have more important things to consider. A buddy back in
Arkansas had promised to shave his head if Daly won. "Hell, I
might do it too," Daly said.
Still, for all his ignorance of the history and traditions of
St. Andrews, Daly and the course got along fine, as though St.
Andrews itself were tired of being dusted carefully and wanted
to see somebody lash the ball a half mile on her ancient
fairways. Daly was her man. He practically had to tie down his
driver to keep it in the bag. He usually is forced to hit a
three-iron off many tees, but St. Andrews's ridiculously wide
fairways--the 1st/18th is 117 paces wide--begged him to grip it
and rip it. No place, even Augusta, is better set up for Daly,
though nobody last week expected him to drive it so long and
straight in winds that whipped trousers and straightened up old
men. Despite being ranked 187th on the Tour in driving accuracy,
he hit only two truly errant tee shots. And he was in only five
bunkers all week.
Yet his accuracy wasn't the most stunning thing about Daly. The
most stunning thing was that his golf was so delicate. Yeah,
even Gomer Pyle can sing in a lovely tenor. Four times on
Friday, Daly two-putted from more than 100 feet, including one
from 180 feet on the 12th. "I love to step 'em off," he said,
grinning under that blond Prince-Valiant-meets-the-lube-
guy-at-Chevron 'do. "Hell, that one green  is the size of a
Canadian football field."
In an odd way Daly was helping us all rediscover the wonders of
St. Andrews, which is maybe the only place on earth where you
could see the following:
Greg Norman, his back to the 17th green, hitting his third shot
off a wall and back onto the green, then draining the putt for
the weirdest 4 of the week.
Jack Nicklaus making a 10 on the par-5 14th. It happened on
Thursday when he went straight to Hell (Bunker) and couldn't
find his way out with a map and a shovel. He needed four shots
to get out, and then he three-putted for good measure, which
allows him to tell anybody who asks how he made a 10: "Missed a
three-footer for 9."
Bill Glasson sharing the Friday lead at the 17th tee, then
watching his ball register at the Old Course Hotel en route to
Even the daily flashes in the pan were flashier than usual.
Saturday's hero was Michael Campbell, a roguish 26-year-old from
New Zealand who put up the best score of the week--a seven-under
65--to take a two-shot lead. The great-great-great-great-grandson
of a Scot, Campbell will be claimed as a native of Dundee if he
keeps playing as he did at St. Andrews. "Am I overwhelmed?" he
repeated Saturday night. "Well, no, not really--yes, I am. Yes,
yes, I am very overwhelmed."
He had overwhelmed the field from behind. The 28 guys who teed
off after him went 57 over par. He went seven under. That's how
you get an Open lead to sleep with you on a Saturday night.
The next day came up so windy that for the first time all week,
the bobbies used the straps under their chins to keep their hats
on. And unlike the previous day, Campbell was anything but
great-great-great-great. He three-putted the 5th, drove into one
of the Coffin bunkers at 6, three-putted the 8th, shot 76 and
finished tied for third.
Four back when the round began, Daly was feeling just right. He
ate "five or six chocolate croissant things" for breakfast, he
said, and then he and his wife, Paulette, danced crazily in
their room to Wilson Pickett CDs. "I tell you, I love my wife
probably more 'n golf," he would say later. Said Paulette, "He
sure didn't seem nervous."
While the players in the two groups behind him fretted, Daly
parred the first three holes, birdied the 4th, 7th and 8th, and
made the turn with a one-shot lead. On a day when only two
players broke 70, a charge on Daly never materialized. Not from
Steve Elkington, who tied for sixth; not from Mark Brooks, who
tied for third. Daly would have to come back to them.
Lord, you had to figure he would. Hadn't his whole life been a
lot of heaving this way and that? As an unknown in 1991 he won
the PGA at Crooked Stick out of the trunk of his car. Great, but
that revealed a drunk who slept in his car, trashed his house,
abused his second wife (page 62) and broke any mirror with his
likeness in it. Not great, but the sobriety he was forced to
adopt to save his career helped him get some control of his
life. Great, except that recovery was almost too much for him to
cope with, leading to amusement-park mood swings and the two
suspensions. Bad, except that the suspensions gave him the last
two winters away from golf, which gave him time to grow up a
little, learn to play the guitar, marry Paulette, have a baby.
Wonderful, except that he had not broken an egg all year on Tour
and hadn't earned a single Ryder Cup point. Not that U.S.
captain Lanny Wadkins would want him. Wouldn't fit the team
chemistry, Wadkins suggested in May. Who knew which way the
pendulum would swing in Daly's life now?
At 16 on the Old Course on Sunday, Daly began the collapse
everybody expected. After all, he had the highest fourth-round
scoring average on the Tour. And sure enough, he stubbed his toe
with a bogey after a 325-yard drive. His lead was two going into
the one hole at St. Andrews nobody wants to play, the 17th. If
this hole were human, it would be Dennis Hopper.
For the week it would give up 13 birdies. To Daly it had given
up a double bogey just the day before. This time he hit a
six-iron that the wind dumped into the Road Bunker, the place
where 65s go to become 73s. Daly had no shot forward and no way
out backward. Sideways left was an option, but even that was
One thing gave him hope. Playing partner Ernie Els had nearly
the same shot. "No way I could've hit that shot if it weren't
for seeing Ernie do it first," Daly would say. He came splashing
out on Els's heels--clearing the lip by inches--and two-putted
for the happiest 5 of his life.
All that was left was to make his 4 on the 18th and see if
Costantino Rocca could par the 17th and birdie the 18th to tie,
a nasty order. But Rocca did par the 17th, miraculously putting
his third shot from the road to within four feet. And then he
hit his drive long up the left side of 18, almost to the green.
With all the world watching, especially John and Paulette, who
were holding each other by their haircuts near a TV set behind
the green, Rocca did the unforgivable. He chunked his chip.
Flubbed it like a 22 handicapper. It flew maybe five feet--not
much longer than one of the linguini noodles he'd been making
for friends all week--and rolled another 30.
This was the same Rocca who had missed a tiddler to turn the
tide in the Americans' favor at the '93 Ryder Cup. It had been
his one claim to blame, and though he had tried to live that
down--"I don't kill anybody," he said last week, "I just miss the
putt"--how would he ever explain this?
Behind the green, Daly's agent Bud Martin was whooping and
hollering. Daly was allowing himself a little smile and a hug.
But his caddie, Greg Rita, was walking around saying, "It's not
over. Gotta be ready for a playoff."
Get serious. Rocca had 65 feet left from the Valley of Sin,
which looks like a grassed-in Paul Bunyan footprint, only deeper
and trickier. Yet here came the putt, steaming at the hole and
then diving in as if it were late for a subway. The crowd shook
the bleachers with its roar, and Rocca lay flat on the hallowed
turf, pounding the grass with utter, disbelieving delight.
"I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach," said Paulette.
"I feel like a jerk," said Martin.
"Oh, ----," said Daly.
If ever there was a sobriety-ruiner, this was it--worse than
chocolates and migraines and mood swings. Daly had just been
Greg Normanized. But then he pulled an anti-Shark. He attacked.
Instead of letting Destiny kick his butt, he threw Destiny into
the turnbuckle. He simply played his cream-centered heart out.
He nearly birdied the 1st with a nine-iron that just cleared the
wee burn, and Rocca three-putted from above the hole. Then Daly
rolled in the sweetest 35-foot birdie putt on the 2nd, while
Rocca sent his birdie putt six inches left. Then Daly made a
routine par on the unparrable 17th with a 345-yard drive and a
lovely bump-and-run nine-iron. Rocca, stuck in the same Road
Bunker that Daly had visited earlier, left it in twice and made
a 7. Finally Daly made a ho-hum par at the 18th. At one point in
the drubbing, you half expected Rocca to ask, "Hey, don't I
Daly played the playoff in one-under 15. That 15, coupled with
his final-round 71, is the only 86 this side of the Des Moines
Optimist Club D-flight that is going to win you any kind of
trophy. It was enough to beat Rocca by four. Destiny just got
Rocca smiled happily. He had choked horribly, recovered
miraculously and finally lost to a better player. He didn't kill
anyone, especially himself.
A long time ago, after the preposterous win at Crooked Stick,
Daly announced, "I wanna have more majors than Jack Nicklaus."
Well, who knows? This Daly breaks all the rules, some good, some
bad, some he's never heard of. At 29, he has a second major.
Since World War II, Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller are
the only other Americans to have done that before the age of 30.
And though Daly told the throng afterward, "I can't believe I
get to come back for five more of these!" the reality is he gets
to keep coming back until he's 65, whether they like it or not.
Not that we want to bother anybody with rules and crap.
O.K., some starched mustaches don't see eye-to-eye with
Daly--some players don't either--but you know what? Let 'em eat
Nobody ever said you have to take a lore test before you play
St. Andrews. Nobody said you have to wear a coat and tie to win
here either. Like him or not, Daly is tougher than truck wax.
When his talents bloom, nobody is more thrilling to watch. He
may be the oaf who lugs in your Baldwin piano, but he is also
the guy who can play a sweet Chopin nocturne on it.
So go out and celebrate this victory John Daly-style. Find
someone special and enjoy a gourmet meal somewhere.
Maybe at a nice Exxon station.