Major Problem John Daly made it into the Masters, but his mind might be elsewhere next week

April 05, 2004

When John Daly walked off the 18th green at the Players
Championship on Sunday afternoon, he was not happy. It appeared
certain that his final-round 80 and 10-over 298 (79th place) had
dropped him out of the top 10 on the 2004 money list and therefore
out of the Masters. Later that evening Daly found out that he had
instead hung on to the 10th spot and qualified to play at Augusta.
"I'm totally excited to be back in the Masters," he said. In
keeping with the typical roller-coaster pattern of Daly's life,
though, it could turn out to be a very bad week.

On Monday, April 5, while Daly prepares to play a practice round
at Augusta, his wife, Sherrie, and her parents, Alvis and Billie
Miller, are scheduled to begin trial proceedings in an Oxford,
Miss., court on federal charges of laundering more than $1.2
million in illegal drug profits. If convicted, Sherrie Daly faces a
maximum sentence of 20 years. The trial is expected to last about a
week, meaning Daly could experience the highest highs and lowest
lows in very short order.

The almost unbelievable confluence of events that led to the trial
taking place the same week as the tournament for which Daly so
narrowly qualified could affect the two-time major winner in one of
two ways. The possibility of his spouse ending up behind bars might
put the supposed pressure of a 10-footer for par in perspective,
allowing Daly to relax and play better. In this scenario the course
could become his sanctuary, the same way the basketball court has
become a haven for the Lakers' Kobe Bryant while he faces rape
charges in Colorado.

Then again, the whole thing could serve as a huge distraction,
making it harder for Daly to focus on the task at hand, similar to
the way Phil Mickelson's performance suffered last year after his
wife, Amy, endured a life-threatening childbirth. No one knows for
sure how things will go for Daly, but there are some indications
his play could falter. On Sunday, Daly's caddie, Peter Van Derriet,
told SI that his man "will play even better when all the
distractions are gone."

Daly was clearly disappointed as he loaded up his motor home and
left the TPC at Sawgrass on Sunday afternoon, certain that his
ninth-place standing on the money list wouldn't hold up. But as the
afternoon wore on, the players with a chance to pass him continued
to drop. That prompted his agent, Bud Martin, who knew Daly
couldn't watch TV while on the move, to get his client on the
phone.

"I talked him through it," says Martin. "I was watching it on TV
in the Jacksonville airport and giving him my best Ken Venturi
imitation." In the end only Adam Scott, the Players' winner with an
impressive 12-under 276, passed Daly, who held on to the 10th spot
$135,531 ahead of Darren Clarke.

Later that night Daly reflected on the turn of events. "I haven't
been there too often in recent years, so it's a thrill for me to be
going back," he said. "I love it there."

Compared with where else he might be, why wouldn't he?

COLOR PHOTO: AL MESSERSCHMIDT/WIREIMAGE.COM (DALY) BUMPY PATH Daly will hold court at Augusta National the same week his wife faces trial in Mississippi.

Trust Me

Think Sawgrass played hard and fast? Wait until the Masters. If
the green coats get Augusta National where they want it, and if the
rain holds off, it'll make Sawgrass look like Indian Wells.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)