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Player's Journal

John Daly: What I’ve Learned


In the days leading up to the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the Wild Thing took part in a special Q&A at Urban Golf in London, in which he discussed his childhood, his majors, the Ryder Cup and more (including porn stars, fire walking and the “biggest asshole in golf”). Dan Davies asked the questions.
John Daly: What I’ve Learned

John Daly is a two-time major winner, three-time divorcee and a true one-off. Warning - this Q&A contains adult themes and adult language. A lot of adult language...

I'm a redneck guy from Dardanelle, Arkansas, population: forty-two hundred people. We actually have a town in the state, Booger Hollow, population seven, counting one coon dog.

My mom was an angel, my dad was an asshole. That’s fine. My mom taught me how to clean, cook and take care of myself when I was nine years old. We pretty much raised ourselves.

In Arkansas, you're a farmer, you're a baseball player, or you're a football player. Well, there's one thing I wasn't and that was a farmer. I played football and I played baseball, but golf is just a passion for me.

I'm a self-taught guy. I learnt how to play golf on a baseball field. In 1972, Jack Nicklaus came out with a Golf Digest cartoon series — how to grip, how to hit a hook, how to hit a cut, how to chip, how to putt and how to do all this shit in golf. We lived right by a baseball field. The pitcher’s mound was a flop shot. Right field was a cut. First base was a chip and run. Second base was that straight shot you’ve got to hit under pressure. Third base was the hook that Jack Nicklaus has never hit in his fucking life.

John Daly in full flow at Urban Golf

"I'm a redneck guy from Dardanelle, Arkansas, population 4,200"

We had a lot of parties and I walked through a few fires, blazing fires as big as this room. I just walked right through the motherfuckers barefoot, I didn’t care. It was just kids having fun.

There were 42 letters on my locker on Saturday [evening at the USPGA Championship at Crooked Stick in 1991]. Forty-one of them were from porn stars. The 42nd one was from Jack Nicklaus, who wrote ‘Go get ‘em John’. I concentrate on the 41. These beautiful women sent me all these letters because I had the [porn star] John Holmes moustache and the mullet. God, I was only about an inch away from John Holmes. He was 14 inches, I’m 13.

The only reason I play golf is because of Jack Nicklaus. I got that note he wrote me framed in my house. To get that was just awesome.

The only thing that mattered to me was the fans. It pissed every player off that I acknowledged the fans with high fives, that I was signing autographs from green to tee during the round. Between sponsors and fans, that's what makes us our money but a lot of [players] don't get it. I got it at an early age because of Fuzzy Zoeller. The fans get you through a lot of shit, just like music gets people through stuff. It's just a beautiful thing what fans do and what they bring to any sport.

The best place I ever went to was Betty Ford. I've had a lot of divorces and a lot of shit going on, like people taking my money and not paying me back or whatever. [At the Betty Ford Clinic] they said to write down the pros of your life and the cons of your life. I had about 74 pros and about three cons. They asked me what they were and I said, ‘A bitch for an ex-wife, a bitch for an ex-wife, and a bitch for an ex-wife’.

John Daly lets it all hang out

"I'm the most simple guy in the world..."

In 1993, I met this guy who was probably worth about $300-400 million. Instead of just paying me maybe 100 grand to do an outing with his guys, he said he and three other guys wanted to scramble me. I said, ‘Okay, what do you what do you want to play for?’ We'll play for 20,000 a hole, he said. ‘If we're going to do that, I get two putts. It's all I want. I'll play you guys but all I want is two putts.’ After about three years, I’d probably won over $4.7 million from this guy.

Payne Stewart, god bless his soul, was a good guy — a cocky little motherfucker but a good guy. In 1993, me, Freddy Couples and Payne Stewart played in the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews. I fell in love with St Andrews. There was an old Scottish bloke on the first tee of the practice round who said, ‘John, you can hit it over the ravine.’ So I just hit driver and flew it over the damn green. The next day we play the tournament and the wind’s in our face and I had to lay up. The reason I fell in love with St Andrews was because it was the first links golf course where I realised that every day changes.

I was a train wreck coming into St Andrews in ’95. Why? I was fucking sober for four years.

The only reason I won the Open Championship in ‘95 was because of Fuzzy Zoeller. He taught me a shot. It's called the three-quarters shot. A lot of these kids that play today don't have a clue what a three-quarters shot is. The European guys do, but the Americans don't. Your Dustin Johnsons and Jason Days don't know what a three-quarters shot is. If they need some time, I'll teach it to them.

In 1996 I won the driving distance with a zero iron. I’d just signed a 10-year deal with Wilson, but the driver they had was a piece of shit and nobody bought it. So I got a zero-iron made up – nine degrees of loft. I’ve got the ‘96 driving distances framed in my office.

People ask me, are you mad at your son for getting pissed off and breaking clubs? I say, ‘Fuck no, I'm not’. Ok why? ‘Because he fucking cares. He wants to win.’ We all deal with situations [differently] in an adrenaline moment. Adrenaline is the downfall or the [making] of everybody that lives a life in sport. And if my son breaks the club, as long as I know that he cares about it and keeps playing, I don't give a shit.

I'm the most simple guy in the world. One, I can cook. Two, I'm OCD, so I'm a cleaning freak. Plus, I have big feet, big hands and three out of three ain’t bad. What else does a woman need? Honestly, I'm still learning about women but I love them.

Curtis Strange is the biggest asshole who ever lived in golf. Atlanta Country Club, 1991 — my rookie year. The BellSouth Classic. There's only six holes on the putting green, 146 guys competing. I go out and start putting from six feet and this ball comes up, so I knock it right back. I don’t look up, I'm just being nice. But this guy is just rolling everything in the hole and I'm slapping them back because I'm jealous. After about the fourth time I look up and go, ‘You OK?’ He goes, ‘You do not putt when a veteran is putting. You’re a rookie. You need to step away from this hole and let me do my thing because I'm a veteran. I won two U.S. Opens.’ So I go, ‘Really? Have you looked around? There’s only six holes and there’s 50 guys on this putting green’. [He says] ‘I don't care. I'm Curtis Strange and I play to my hole.’ So I say, ‘OK, there's two things are gonna happen. I'm a redneck from Arkansas and I'm going to keep putting at this hole. The second thing that's going to happen is I'm going to take your body and break it into six fucking pieces so you’ll never win a third US Open. So get the fuck out of my way so I can work on my game.’ What does Curtis do? He walks right off.

John Daly at Urban Golf for Sounder

JD on the Ryder Cup:  "It's about country. It's not about you... that's the reason they'll never make me a captain"

I don't want any part of the Ryder Cup. I believe in America. I believe in the soldiers who defend our country. I believe in our allies that help defend our country. Until our US team realises that we're never going to be any good. It's a team effort. It's. A. Team. I love what Paul McGinley did. I love what Darren Clarke did. I love what Thomas Bjorn did. It's about country. It's not about you. It's about Europe. It's about USA. It’s the American flag, my country. I will fight for that country like our soldiers have. That's the reason they’ll never make me a captain.

How do 78 guys on the Champions tour take five hours and 15 minutes to play a round of golf? I cannot figure out why people play slow. I do I do realise one thing though: they milk the clock for sponsors if they're on TV.

Bernhard Langer is a dear friend of mine, but he's slower than ice melts in Antarctica. In my first senior PGA Championship at Ben Harbor, I was playing with Bernhard. He had a seven-foot par putt and I fell asleep on my putter. My wife had to wake me up.

There's no unusual place to have sex for a nympho. Sex is the only thing that's great for anything.

The only reason that I played golf is because it was the hardest thing that I could do. My attitude was I'm going to do it, I'm going to get it done.