Moderation key to new Daly way

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The Independent Online

They weren't sure he was coming to the championship. They were even more surprised yesterday morning to find him standing on the first tee. "I am sorry, Mr Daly," the starter said. "Your name's not in the book."

They weren't sure he was coming to the championship. They were even more surprised yesterday morning to find him standing on the first tee. "I am sorry, Mr Daly," the starter said. "Your name's not in the book."

Five years ago John Daly didn't need to reserve a tee time for a practise round. This time they squeezed him in, behind Bernhard Langer, who is not exactly greased lightning when it comes to pace of play, but it meant the 1995 Open champion playing on his own.

"I am so unpopular I can't get anybody to play with me," the former Wild Thing said. He was joking. The perception is that a lot of bourbon has flowed under the Swilken bridge since Daly kissed the claret jug here. Five years ago he gorged himself on burgers, chocolates and ice cream and drank Diet Coke from the jug. He stayed at the Old Course Hotel and didn't touch the champagne that was laid on for him.

He's back at the hotel but in a different room, this one overlooking the 17th, the Road Hole. He might have one or two for the road for he's off the wagon. "I haven't drunk whisky since I was 25," said Daly, who is 34. "I won't touch Jack Daniels. I used to drink that stuff out of the bottle but now I can't stand the smell of it. I'll have a beer but no spirits. I might have a vodka with just a splash of lemonade. I don't have the strong stuff."

With Long John it was all or nothing. He was a compulsive eater, drinker, gambler and that was on a good day. His career has followed a similarly dangerous path. When he made a sensational impact at the US PGA championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana in 1991 he was drinking during the event. He only got in as ninth reserve and overnight became a very hot property. This was pre-Tiger Woods. Then came his second major triumph, over the old course, defeating Costantino Rocca in a play-off. Callaway signed him to play their clubs but have now discarded him. The American company is happy to associate itself with Colin Montgomerie. Much more wholesome and fewer sleepless nights. Even so, Daly has two major titles, Monty none. It is not a record that has impressed the good burghers of St Andrews University.

Yesterday they recognised the achievements of Monty and Seve Ballesteros, bestowing them with honourary doctorates. It is understood that Tiger declined the honour. Daly is not seen as ideal doctorate material. He has made three visits to rehabilitation, costing $30,000 (£20,000) a time. "They were only in it to make money," he said. "The AA were much better but I don't think I need them anymore. Besides I am not an alcoholic. I don't drink every day."

It is estimated that he has earned $41m and lost $51m. So he has cut down on his gambling too. "I play a little bit," he said, "but it's not like $30m is coming to me anymore. If I go to a casino it'll be for two or three hours, not two or three days, and I'll walk out with what I took in. Everything in moderation."

Daly, twice divorced, may not have had a playing partner yesterday but he was not alone on the links. There was Marc J Chamberland, president of a newly-formed company, John Daly Enterprises - postal address 91 PGA Road, St Andrews, USA - and his South African caddy, Ronnie McCann, a former professional golfer, who is also vice-president of the company.

On the bag is the legend "grip it and rip it", his philosophy at Crooked Stick, but the new trademark is the image of a lion's head. "The lion was one of his nicknames in high school," Chamberland explained. "John has blond hair and blue eyes. It's a king of the jungle thing. It's about regaining courage."

A lot of people have given Daly a wide berth but Chamberland's dream is to sell a range of merchandise with the lion logo, just as Jack Nicklaus did with the Golden Bear and Greg Norman with the Great White Shark.

"Sometimes it's time to get behind somebody," Chamberland said. "John's never given up and he's trying on every shot."

In the US Open at Pebble Beach, the one Tiger walked away with, Daly hit three balls into the Pacific and ran up a score of 14 at the final hole in the first round. He walked off the course and said: "Get me to the airport."

It has prompted one bookmaker to open a market on what he might score on any one hole. He is 3-1 against getting an eight, 13-2 on a nine, 10-1 for a 10 and 5-1 on 13 plus.

Daly will not be making a bet. When he won here he was 80-1 and three American punters backed him at that price with $240,000. You can get better odds this time round. "I've been getting some bad breaks," Daly said. "It's been a weird year. Crazy stuff has been happening to me but it's only a matter of time. Something good has to come. Nobody works as hard at the game as Vijay Singh but I've been pretty close."

While reacquainting himself with the old course, Daly lights up another cigarette and has another swig of Coke. He has lost 35lb in seven months. This, he says, is because he's stopped taking the tablets. "I was on anti-depressants and a load of different stuff and it was screwing up my body. Part of the Callaway deal was that I was on medication but it meant that for the last two years I had no energy. Emotionally, I was dying. Now I feel like I'm living again."

The lion is no Tiger but Chamberland is keeping his fingers crossed. "Everything in John's career has been in bursts, like home-run hits. There might be another home run in him."