A new season for the Daly Show

John Daly has squandered his undeniable talent, which has produced only five victories in 428 appearances since he turned pro in 1987. He has not posted a single top 10 since October 2005 – a span of 70 tournaments – when he missed a short par putt to lose to Tiger Woods on the second playoff hole in the American Express Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Forget about Charles Barkley and Ray Romano. Daly should be the next guinea pig for the Golf Channel’s Hank Haney Project.

Nonetheless, on Thursday morning at 8:30 local time in Honolulu, Daly, courtesy of a sponsor’s exemption, will tee off at Waialae Country Club. Long John will hit the ball a mile and go chase it and hit it again, doing what he still does best. On Thursday and Friday, no player in the 144-man field will generate more support from the galleries – and more attention from the TV cameras.

John Daly of the USA smokes a cigarette during the third round of the 2009 Australian Openin December.
(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

If only, for a change, Daly could make it to the weekend. Better yet, contend.

“The tour needs him,” said Chi Chi Rodriguez, who knows a thing or two about performing on a golf course. “I tried to watch the Hawaii tournament [last week’s season opener in Maui]. It was like watching paint dry.”

Chi Chi is right. The tour does need Daly, more than ever. A Geoff Ogilvy vs. Rory Sabbatini duel does not exactly move the needle.

Woods is out until probably late March, at the earliest, while Phil Mickelson will not play until Torrey Pines in two weeks and Sergio Garcia won’t make his season debut till February. The tour has only four legitimate stars and Daly, as flawed as he may be, is one of them.

A big part of his attraction is precisely because he is flawed. He remains so popular, in fact, that “Being John Daly,” his new reality show on the Golf Channel, will debut on March 2. Anthony Kim doesn’t have a show and he’s not going to get one anytime soon. Neither will Rory McIlroy.

“The fans still love John Daly,” said NBC analyst Roger Maltbie. “There’s always been something about him that makes him the perennial underdog.”

Being beloved does not necessarily result in birdies and that’s what Daly needs, as well as patience. Too often in recent years he has allowed a poor stretch of holes to destroy his spirit and interest. It’s often painful to watch.

If Daly, at 43, has any chance of making one final glorious comeback, one that could, at least temporarily, help fans forget about Woods, it must start where it usually does with the most skilled golfers on the planet. Between the ears.

“John Daly knows how to play golf,” suggested the noted golf psychologist, Dr. Bob Rotella. The question, he added, is “Can he go out on Thursday and Friday and be patient?”

Daly has undergone more changes in his personal life than anybody in the game.

He has gained and lost wives, gained and lost money (due to gambling), gained and lost endorsements, and thanks to lap-band surgery, gained and lost weight.

Every year, he makes news for the wrong reasons.

In 2008, Daly hit a tee shot off the top of a beer can during a pro-am, used then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden as his caddie and was found drunk outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, N.C.

In 2009, he was suspended by the PGA Tour for six months.

What surprises will 2010 bring?

Yet the essence of his appeal remains intact, the laid-back Everyman who keeps plugging away, awaiting his turn, ready to produce greatness again after being counted out over and over.

After his 1995 British Open victory at St. Andrews, he didn’t win again for nine long years. Then, out of nowhere, he prevailed at Torrey Pines with a memorable bunker shot on the final hole.

Now Daly is back in the middle of another painful drought, except this time, time is running out. He’ll turn 44 in April.

“Let’s hope with age and experience,” Maltbie said, “that he’ll get it right. I’m hoping he can give it one last push.”

It starts on Thursday in Hawaii.

Mistaken identity

Ben Crane was hanging out with his family in Dallas on Dec. 10 when his agent called with the news: Crane had been quoted from the PGA Tour’s Q-school in Florida as saying that Tiger Woods was a “phony and a fake.”

Crane was blown away.

First, he would never say anything like that about Woods. Second, Crane did not attend Q-school, keeping his playing privileges by finishing 51st on the 2009 money list. Negative comments about Woods were also attributed to fellow tour veteran Charles Warren, according to a freelancer for Life & Style.

“It was a big shock,” Crane said this week. “I called Charles and he was in as much shock as I was.”

Crane was contacted by a tour representative who knew he did not make any of the alleged comments. Crane spoke to Doug Ferguson, the Associated Press golf writer, and soon his denial was on the wires. Any potential fallout was put to rest.

“I learned that people will do anything to create a story,” Crane said. “My wife and I have prayed for Tiger and Elin and we want nothing but the best for them.”

A visit with the First Golfer

On Tuesday afternoon, the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup squad, except for Juli Inkster, met for about 15 minutes with President Obama in the Oval Office.

“It was fantastic,” said Natalie Gulbis, a team member.

Gulbis said that the president asked for suggestions on how he might get his two daughters involved in the game, and mentioned a magnificent 2-iron he hit during his recent vacation in Hawaii that led to a birdie.

“We were surprised he had a 2-iron,” Gulbis said.

The team gave Obama a left-handed putter. He immediately took the cover off and started practicing his stroke.

What did Gulbis think of the president’s putting prowess?

“I was in the Oval Office,” she laughed. “I wasn’t looking at his technique.”

She also met for the first time the LPGA Tour’s new commissioner, Michael Whan, and seemed impressed. After the tour of the White House, Whan held a special celebration for the Solheim Cup team in D.C., inviting current and potential sponsors, as well as members of the media. The players held a Q&A session before about 150 people, Gulbis said.

“It was a great start to the 2010 year,” she said.

Gulbis will appear in a Jan. 21 episode of the CBS show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” Also appearing will be PGA Tour players Rocco Mediate and Duffy Waldorf. Gulbis, who appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice” last year, would like to do more acting in the years ahead, but her No. 1 priority will continue to be the game she loves.

“Golf will always be a part of my life,” she said, “even when I’m not competing.”

Michael Arkush is an editor for Yahoo! Sports. Send Michael a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010