The mastersrookie approached the two-time major winner last Thursday looking for advice."I'm Dave Womack," said the 28-year-old from McDonough, Ga., stickingout his hand. "I won the U.S. Mid-Amateur and played in the Masters today.What do you do after you shoot an 84?"
John Daly's response was quick and predictable. "Go get drunk, man," hesaid. "Might as well enjoy yourself." All those within earshot roaredwith laughter.
For most of Daly's 17 years on the PGA Tour, such an exchange during Mastersweek would've taken place in the Augusta National clubhouse or on the practicetee. This year it happened exactly 1.7 miles from Magnolia Lane, in a parkinglot on Washington Road. Daly, now a lowly 229th in the World Ranking and anonqualifier for the tournament for the first time since 2003, neverthelessspent the entire week in Augusta. There, every night from six to eight, hesigned autographs, posed for pictures and sold hats, T-shirts, flags and otherassorted Team Lion--branded merchandise from a trailer parked beside a Hootersrestaurant. And Womack, like a kid at a sideshow, was simply one more fanfiling by to gawk at the one, the only Long John.
Daly gave the people what they came to see, chain-smoking Marlboros, knockingback bottles of Miller Lite and trading bawdy jokes for hours as he signedwhatever was put in front of him. When a man handed him a risqué HootersT-shirt, Daly looked down at the scantily clad waitress on it and asked,"Do you want me to sign her [breasts]?" When another fan asked him ifhe felt old, Daly, 41 on April 28, came back with, "We only feel as old asthe women we feel." After someone told Daly that he saw him make an 18 on ahole at Bay Hill, Daly said, "Oh, yeah, I missed that four-footer for a 17.Hey, we're all human, man."
Daly knows his demographic, so he was not surprised to see the traffic at histrailer, which had filled the parking lot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (thepractice-round days), fall off dramatically once the tournament began and themore staid patrons arrived. "Thursday is like the changing of theguard," said Tod Dundas, a regional manager for Hooters brought in forMasters week. "The blue-collar crowd goes home, and the business crowdcomes in."
the juxtapositionof Daly swilling and smoking in a parking lot while the year's first major wasbeing contested mere blocks away did lead to some awkward moments. On Thursdaya well-oiled fan handed Daly a hat to sign and asked, "How'd you dotoday?"
"I'm notplaying," Daly answered.
When the fanguffawed and asked, "What's your problem?" Daly responded with a wansmile.
Another manhanded Daly his cellphone and asked him to say hello to his girlfriend. Dalycomplied. Long pause. Then he said into the phone, "I didn't play, baby. Ididn't get in this year."
A woman pushed ahat in front of Daly and said, "We're glad you're here."
As he signed,Daly lifted his chin toward the tall Georgia pines swaying less than two milesin the distance and said, "I'd rather be over there."
As usual, Dalywas staying in his tricked-out RV, which he had parked a few hundred feet fromHooters. During a quiet moment there on Friday afternoon he admitted thatspending the week in Augusta without being in the field was not as easy as hewas making it look. "It's eating the living s--- out of me," he said."I've never done anything like this before, but I'll probably do it everyyear whether I'm in [the Masters] or not. It's good for the fans, it's good forHooters, and it's good for me."
Daly palledaround with the guys from TaylorMade, one of his sponsors, but besides Hootersduty, his only regular obligation was a meet-and-greet with the folks from 84Lumber each day. He also got over to Sage Valley Golf & Hunt Club inGraniteville, S.C., twice to play a few holes, but he didn't once set foot onthe grounds at Augusta National. By Friday he was sufficiently bored to show uptwo hours early for his Hooters shift, and he occasionally glanced at the smallTV in the trailer showing the Masters.
Someone asked ifit was hard to watch. "No, it's boring," Daly said. "I don't likewatching golf on TV. I'd rather play."
Turning from thescreen, Daly said he wanted to clear up something. Contrary to publishedreports, he said, he and his fourth wife, Sherrie, were not divorced."We're not even separated," he said. "It's still a roller-coastermarriage, but we're great whenever we're together. It's when we're apart thatstuff happens." Daly did not deny that he and Sherrie have a lot on theirplate. They're taking care of their three-year-old son, Little John, andSherrie's sister's two young children as well as Sherrie's parents, whorecently served time for money laundering. "I keep asking everyone, 'Isthere a plan here, or are we all assuming good ol' JD is going to take care ofthings?'" he said. "I mean, I have four kids of my own to worryabout."
Two of Daly'sbest buddies on Tour, Ian Poulter and Fuzzy Zoeller, had stopped by the trailerearlier in the week, as had former NBA star Dan Majerle. Jimmy Flynt II, anephew of Larry's and a vice president of marketing for Hustler magazine, alsomade an appearance, telling Daly that he found the golfer's autobiography MyLife in & out of the Rough, "inspiring."
The locals wereclearly enthralled. On Thursday night Ricky Dudai, 53 years old and a member ofthe Augusta Fire Department, brought over dozens of thick-cut rib-eye steaks.After Daly was done with his Hooters commitment, Dudai grilled a batch for Johnand a few friends outside Daly's RV. As they sat in armchairs, steaks in theirlaps, beer beside them, a squad car rolled up and out popped two waitressesfrom Hooters carrying baked beans and mashed potatoes. Lifting yet anotherMiller Lite to his lips, Daly opined, "Isn't it great to be drinking a beerin front of a cop car? That's beautiful."
Yes, beautiful.But during Masters week, in Augusta, location is everything, and a parking lotwas about 1.7 miles from ideal.
• Read Alan Shipnuck's Hot List at GOLF.com.
As the Masters went on without him, Daly was signing and selling less than twomiles away.
Daly has to keep grinding to support his own four children, his sister-in-law'stwo kids and his wife's parents.