Latest News

Daly's unlikely win hasn't been topped yet

Somewhere way back in the misty past there may have been a more unlikely winner in a major championship but in modern times, that title is held by John Daly and nobody is second.

When the PGA Championship unfolds this week in Atlanta, 20 years will have passed since Daly came out of nowhere, wreathed in cigarette smoke and whipping the air with the most goodgoshamighty golf swing on earth.

It took a storybook sequence of events to even get the 25-year-old Daly, the 168th ranked player in the world, into the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. After qualifying, he was the ninth alternate, which meant nine people who had qualified would have to drop out before he could get in. They did but by the time enough had withdrawn, there was no time left for Daly to play a practice round.

He shot an opening 69 and was in eighth place but attracted little attention except for his mighty swing. Where most backswings stopped, his kept going and going. When he unwound, Daly would regularly hit the ball 300 yards, and this was before equipment opened the door to today's army of long knockers.

He shot 67 in the second round, took the lead and never let it go. He closed with 69-71 and the man who came in as a curiosity whose approach to golf was "grip it and rip it" emerged as champion. It seemed incredible then that a player with so few credentials could hold up in a tournament of such magnitude but we learned over the years that Daly didn't scare. He had a gambler's nerve, no fear.

Daly added a second major championship when he won the British Open at St. Andrews in 1995. The presentation ceremony was typical Daly. Asked by a Royal & Ancient official to say a few words to the huge audience gathered there at golf's cradle, Daly said, "What the hell you want me to say?"

He hasn't won anything since 2004 and hadn't finished in the top ten since 2006 until a couple of weeks ago. But when he plays, people come to watch him because there is something almost mythical about him. He has always sold tickets. Even when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and other top names were playing, people still trailed behind him to see him hit it and to wish his ball into the cup.

He's not your average tour player. He's one of a kind, with the scars to prove it. His life has been lived with "Desperado" playing in the background, littered with alcohol abuse, divorce, gambling debts and ripped-up scorecards but the galleries have never stopped loving him because there is a kind of unwitting innocence about him, a good ol' boy who just couldn't get it all right.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer