Revealed: the wild truth about the Wild Thing - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Revealed: the wild truth about the Wild Thing

The leaking of John Daly's 456-page Tour disciplinary record means his bad-boy status is enshrined forever

John Daly may be 80lbs lighter and a dray-cart or two milder nowadays, but still the tales of his "Wild Thing" existence live on. And yesterday his legend was given yet further notoriety with an unprecedented peek at the PGA Tour's secret charge sheet of the man who, until very recently, was known as the world's most controversial golfer.

The fact that Daly's "naughty-boy file" runs to 456 pages should tell anyone all they need to know about the scale and breadth of his misdemeanours. Perhaps the most startling revelation is that the PGA Tour ordered him to go to counselling or enter alcohol rehab seven times.

However, despite their commendable concern for Daly's welfare coming to light, it is highly likely the Tour hierarchy will be more traumatised by the exposé in a Florida newspaper than the hell-raiser, himself. After all, the 43-year-old is hardly a stickler for privacy and most of the improprieties have already featured in his 2006 autobiography. In contrast, the PGA Tour, just like the European Tour, refuses to issue details of disciplinary action taken against players, even though it is regularly pointed out to them that the embarrassment of a $10,000 fine is far more likely to act as a deterrent to a multi-millionaire than the money itself. But the belligerent officials stick to their policy, guarding their vaults like Freemasons. Until now.

The Tour was powerless to stop Daly's personal file becoming public record when a court ordered it to be handed over to a publishing firm that Daly had unsuccessfully tried to sue in 2005. A journalist on the Times-Union obtained a copy and began to pore over its contents. It was to be a long shift.

In 17 years, Daly was handed five bans from the PGA Tour, put on probation six times, fined nearly $100,000 (£65,000), and cited 11 times for "conduct unbecoming a professional" and 21 times for "failing to give best efforts". The most costly fine was $30,000. It came in 1993 when Daly hit balls over the heads of cowering fans sitting in a grandstand to watch an exhibition clinic. That was only two years after the big-hitter had become a worldwide sensation for winning the first of two majors as ninth reserve at the USPGA. But his rap sheet was actually first drawn up four months before his heroics at Crooked Stick when the then 24-year-old swore at a playing partner.

Daly's dossier of destruction has unearthed at least one previously unknown transgression, although one that curiously went unpunished. At the 2005 US Open at Pinehurst, an alcohol, tobacco and firearms agent accused Daly of almost knocking him over when failing to stop at a security checkpoint. According to the file, four other witnesses – all law enforcement officers – identified Daly as the driver. The Tour labels the incident "mistaken identity".

Otherwise, all of the Daly classics are featured (well, all those that did not take place at casinos where he claims to have lost $50m to $60m, or in divorce courts where his four ex-wives waged a similar war on his finances). There is the time he hit a ball off a beer can offered by popstar Kid Rock during a pro-am; the times he trashed hotels; the times when he didn't turn up for his tee-times, stormed off mid-round and simply stopped trying, most famously with the 18 he ran up on one hole at Bay Hill in Orlando.

There was also the little matter of a punch-up with the 62-year-old father of a fellow player, Jeff Roth, in full view of the paying public at the 1994 World Series of Golf in Akron. Daly was fined more than £13,000 and suspended for the rest of the season. It was to be his biggest ban until 2008 when he was found unconscious outside a bar in North Carolina and thrown into jail to sober up. The fine – £7,000 – seemed pretty reasonable, but the suspension – six months – was regarded as harsh.

Nevertheless, that particular disgrace seemingly led to a turnaround in his life, notwithstanding the spectator's camera he was to smash against a tree at the Australian Open, or the career high 88 at last July's Buick Open, or, indeed, the "I retire" statement issued and then retracted at Torrey Pines last month. Apparently Daly has not been disciplined in almost two years and together with a steady girlfriend – the former Hooters favourite Anna Cladakis – he cuts a much slimmer and much less combustible figure on Tour, regardless of the outrageous line of trousers he now sports.

However, ranked 435th in the world and without playing privileges on either of the two main tours, he obviously still needs his "Wild Thing" image to retain the interest and the endorsements, which last year reportedly earned him $4m in off-course earnings. This is why Daly probably sees the Times-Union's scoop as being beautifully – some cynics might suggest "uncannily" – timed. Last night, the first episode of his new reality show Being John Daly was aired on the Golf Channel.

But while it could be good news for Daly and his production crew, it is surely bad news for those hoping for a more transparent disciplinary policy in golf. This will make the tours close ranks even tighter than before. That and the realisation of the juicy details in Tiger Woods' file, of course. Daly once recounted an anecdote in which the world No 1 asked him how much he had been fined in total. When the reply came, Woods sniffed. "Not even close to my total," said the game's greatest curser.

Blow by blow: Daly in numbers

100,000 The total amount in dollars Daly has been fined by the PGA Tour.

30,000 Daly's biggest fine in dollars – for hitting balls over the heads of spectators in a grandstand.

456 The size in pages of the PGA Tour's personal file on Daly.

11 The number of times he has been cited for "conduct unbecoming a professional".

7 The number of times the PGA Tour has ordered Daly to undergo counselling or enter alcohol rehab.

5

The number of times the PGA Tour has suspended Daly from playing.

Tiger practises with Masters in range

Tiger Woods is back at his Florida home after a week of family counselling in Arizona and is trying to return to full golfing practice for the first time in more than three months, it was reported last night.

An Associated Press journalist with close links to the Woods camp claims to have spoken to "a person with knowledge of his schedule". The source revealed that Woods returned to Orlando on Saturday and has been hitting balls on the range at Isleworth. The private club happens to be just a few hundred yards from the fire hydrant into which Woods crashed outside his home in the early hours of 27 November, unleashing a torrent of revelations about his extra-marital affairs in the process.

Although AP says there is still no timetable for the world No 1 to tee it up again, this news has increased speculation that Woods will end his "indefinite break" before the Masters, the year's first major which takes place in five weeks' time.

James Corrigan

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