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Being John Daly, for better or for worse

It was nearing lunch time Monday when John Daly settled into a plastic chair at Rock Barn Golf & Spa and got down to the business of being himself.

Daly had flown through the night from Las Vegas, where he'd finished 73rd in his last PGA Tour appearance of the year, to be at Rock Barn as the featured speaker at the Hickory Sportsman Club gathering.

Before the dinner, though, there were souvenirs to sign and a casual round of golf to play with former NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett, among others, once the rain had passed. Wearing black pants littered with bright paisley designs and a black windshirt with enough logos to cover a stock car, the wardrobe was the only part of the man that suggested his "Wild Thing" nickname fit.

It's been four years since Daly had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, and he has no status for 2011, which means he'll probably play primarily on the European Tour next year. He'll rely upon sponsor exemptions to get into PGA Tour events, but Daly isn't the draw he was; the years, the injuries and the drama have dampened his unique career.

Daly said he has lost 117 pounds since having lap-band surgery two years ago, and he's a proud father when he says his daughter, Shynah, has dropped 100 pounds after having the same procedure.

"She's wearing jeans for the first time in her life. She's all excited," Daly said, cracking a smile.

It's been two years, Daly said, since he's had a drink. He said he's worked hard on his game despite lingering effects of two broken ribs and a separated shoulder suffered when he tried to stop his swing when a camera clicked in 2007.

"I've done everything right and haven't played worth a" darn, Daly said. "It's unbelievable. I'm giving myself the chance to play good. It seems the more I work, the worse I get."

There might never have been anyone like Daly in professional golf. He won the 1991 PGA Championship after being the ninth alternate into the field, won the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews and lived a life as massive as his tee shots.

Daly, a most uncommon man, became a hero to the common man.

He has been divorced three times, suspended and fined by the PGA Tour many more times than that and been to various clinics to help him with his alcohol problem. He has never denied the reality of his life, twice turning his story into reality television series and writing songs about himself.

Daly no longer can rely upon his game to save him. In 20 PGA Tour starts this year, he didn't finish among the top 20. He has moments, like the first-round 66 he shot at St. Andrews in July at the British Open, but he faded on the weekend. It's a recurring theme.

"Zapped it pretty good," Daly said when asked what the injuries did to his confidence.

It has caused Daly, 44, to become more of a businessman. His namesake golf balls, like the ones he's signing, are sold in Stein Marts nationwide.

He's working to get Blue Collar Golf clothing on the market, hoping to get $20 golf shirts into Wal-Mart. He's contributed the tag line inside the collar that will read, "Not For Sale At Private Clubs."

He also is launching his own brand of lemonade/sweet tea-flavored vodka, though he said he has quit drinking. Daly said he is tired of other companies using his likeness to sell what came to be known as a "John Daly" in the same way tea-lemonade drinks are known as Arnold Palmers.

Signing copies of his book, "My Life In And Out Of The Rough," with a silver pen, Daly was asked what he's learned about himself through the years.

"That I was happy when I was a miserable drunk. I played better when I was drunk," he said.

Daly paused, smiled half a smile and gently shook his head.

"I don't know," he said.

"Sometimes you point your finger at yourself. You can only point your finger at yourself so many times. You look back at yourself and write the pros and cons of your life and the pros outweigh the cons.

"I look at myself and I'm not that bad a guy. I always thought I was the reason the divorces came. I look back and it takes two to do that. It wasn't all my fault. I played a part in it but I can't keep blaming myself for everything."

Next week, Daly will do a four-day outing in Turkey. He'll go to Australia to play this year. He hopes to find a way to play the PGA Tour next year, but he doesn't sound optimistic.

"You take it as it comes and move on," Daly said. "It's just life."

It's being John Daly.

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