John Daly was recently described as the Britney Spears of sport. And not because both have been known to sing a bit.

John Daly was recently described as the Britney Spears of sport. And not because both have been known to sing a bit.
Just as “a quiet day in the life of a young girl performer” – Spears is still only 26 – does not seem to exist, so the 41-year-old former Open champion’s every move is being followed again to see how many more self-destruct buttons he can press.
Daly is back in action this week at the US Tour’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Or at least he should be. Who knows after what has been happening lately.
A fortnight ago he was due to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational – yes, an event where the great Arnold Palmer invited him to compete.
Since he no longer holds a full Tour card and relies heavily on invites it has become important, you would think, for him to be very grateful and very careful. But he was disqualified for missing his tee-off time at the curtain-raising pro-am.
It cost Australian Nick O’Hern and Japan’s Ryuji Imada their places in the £3million tournament as well. They were the reserves meant to fill in for anybody not pitching up, but they were not around when Daly no-showed.
A wrong time being given to him on the phone was his explanation, but Daly being Daly, his absence was instantly linked to the fact that a mere 24 hours earlier coach Butch Harmon had said he was ceasing to work with the wayward player and added, amongst other things: “The most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”
And that in turn followed controversy the week before when Daly spent a rain delay during the PODS Championship in a hospitality tent and resumed play with the coach of the local American football team as his caddie. He shot 77, then an 80 to finish next to last.
And that in turn followed reports of him out partying during the Bob Hope Classic in California, where he quit after three rounds. His last top 10 finish was three years ago.
Harmon said: “When things don’t go right it’s back to the alcohol stuff. I love this kid – he’s a tremendous talent – but if he’s not going to give 100% effort it’s a waste of my time.”
Following the pro-am debacle two weeks ago Daly tried to make amends to the three businessmen who were due to be his partners by inviting them to a round of golf last weekend. They could not make it, but three company colleagues took their places.
“We hope he can deal with his issues in a way that allows him to continue playing golf,” said US Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, whose 14 years in the post have made him well-versed to answering questions on Daly’s eventful personal and professional life.
The former “Wild Thing” of golf – he now calls himself “The Lion” on his own website – has had to handle gambling and alcohol addictions as well as problems with anti-depressants and binge eating and after three divorces he accused his fourth wife last year of attacking him with a steak knife while he was asleep. This after she completed a prison sentence on federal charges involving an illegal gambling operation and drug ring.
“I think people can relate to some of the things that have gone on in my life,” he said. “I’m human – everybody has ups and downs in life.”
He still believes there are more ups to come in his golf career.
At a celebrity golf tournament in Orlando last week – he did not qualify, of course, for the World Championship in Miami – he told a reporter: “If there’s one thing about John Daly, he’s a survivor. The people who say I need to stop drinking and lose weight, they need to talk to God.
“I don’t need a coach – I need a woman in my life. Once I start playing great golf again, everything will be all right. I’m hitting the ball great. I’m close now. New Orleans is going to be a great week.”
It is easy to forget just how great Daly can play the game at times. His Open victory at St Andrews in 1995 was, of course, preceded by his out-of-the-blue US PGA championship triumph in 1991 and since the Second World War only four other Americans – Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and Tiger Woods – have won two majors before their 30th birthday.
He has never played in the Ryder Cup, though. No American captain has been prepared to take the gamble on him despite his prodigious hitting and undoubted ability. They could never be sure which Daly would show up.
His form so far this season means the issue does not even arise for Paul Azinger and since he is now in his forties and with a world ranking of 570 – the two players either side of him are Norwegian Peter Kaensche and Malaysian Airil Rizman Zahari – the likelihood is that future captains will not be considering him either.
Sad that. As indeed are many things about Daly.
Not that he is the only former great whose ranking now makes shocking reading. David Duval, another competing in New Orleans this week, was number one for two spells in 1999 and Open champion in 2001. He now stands 799th.
By Mark Garrod, PA Sport Golf Correspondent