ORLANDO – John Daly II, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, wasn’t expecting long-term warmth from his father. But it seemed he was expecting Something. Maybe just a few swipes, maybe even a slice or two?
Little John continued to look around the range at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club as their tee time approached, until he finally headed to the first tee. There, he saw Big John, smoking a cigarette and pouring a few Diet Cokes into a takeaway cup, waiting for his son to join him.
“They have a range here?” Dali Sr. asked sarcastically.
He told him, “It doesn’t take long for me to feel warm these days.” “I’m ready to go, baby.”
You couldn’t have conjured up a more on-brand John Daly scene if you tried, nor what happened next: Defending champ Daly’s team, propelled by some hot shots from the two-time major champion, birdied seven of their first nine holes for 29 forehand, then birdied on their first four holes on the back. They eventually reached the club with a total of 59 and 24 not out, which was good enough for a tie for second place, two catches from the team of Vijay and Qass Singh.
Daly’s lack of a warm-up wasn’t Completely by choice. He’s scheduled for knee replacement surgery next week, and his swing has shown. His signature swing was as long as ever, but his touchdown was more than just lashes this week. He slumps backwards on his right side, unable to transfer his weight to his injured left leg.
“I’ve probably had more surgeries than Tiger. They’ve just kept increasing over the last five years,” Daley said earlier this week. “But when I put that metal in the knee, hell, I got more metal than the robot guy.”
Dali is, in fact, unique. But watching it, you can also learn a lot. After all, you don’t win two majors and maintain a career at the highest level without being an expert in your craft…
First, the obvious: Daly learned to hit the ball a long way from an early age and never stopped. Age will take away even the most athletic distance golfer over the years. This is why so many trainers are so focused on trying to get more out of it. Perhaps the most important part of the game today. Which is why Daley’s unwavering desire to swing hard got him to play in the PGA Tour Champions.
Daly cares about putting the ball – a lot. It’s a lesson he passed on to John Jr., too.
“Always check the position of the ball. If you’re hitting it too fat or too far from it, just move it one way or the other so you don’t. Just keep it simple,” he says. “Even as young as Little John is, he knows where that ball has to be.”
Daly found time for 20 minutes to practice – before the first round on Saturday – and spent most of his time hitting balls with a wedge, swinging only with his left arm. This has been Daly’s go-to throughout his career. He says so by swinging his left arm onlyit helps him ease the tempo of his golf swing and prevents his right hand from taking over (causing him to miss out on his left).
At this week’s PNC, Daly found himself aiming left and hitting a boundary slide. With his ailing knee, that’s all he’s got. But he doesn’t worry her. Like any good golfer, he knows how to get the ball across the field with what he’s got, relying on his short game and keeping your expectations in check.
“If we give our best and do a really good job, that’s all you can do. If we win, we win; if we don’t, we don’t,” Daley says. “wWe’ll go out and have some fun. Thats all about it. I just love being with my son.”