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Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Commentary: Daly steals show at Buick Open

August 4, 2004

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— On a basketball court, he'd be booed. On a football field, he'd be mocked.

Sunday afternoon, on a golf course in southeast Michigan, John Daly was beloved.

The self-declared redneck stole the Buick Open from Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. Oh, Daly didn't win the Buick -- Singh beat him by a stroke -- but he stole it. Ask anybody who was there. They'll mention Daly first, Daly second, Daly, Daly, Daly.

Daly never would cut it in a team sport. Very few franchises would put up with him, and if one of them did, the fans would run him out of town. Fans have a vested interest in their teams, and hard-drinking, heavy-gambling overeaters aren't real popular.

"Team sports -- people can always point the finger if somebody didn't do this or do that," Daly said. "It's a very different atmosphere. (Golf) is kind of like tennis. You're your on worst enemy and your own best friend out there."

In golf, with no season-ticket holders or teammates, Daly can disappoint only his family and his agent.

In golf, Daly sins mostly against himself. He can gamble away $12 million in just four years, as he once did.

He can glide from alcoholism to recovery so quickly that when you see him hanging from the wagon, you're never sure if he's falling off or climbing on. He can go through wives like they're putters (No. 4, Sherrie, recently pleaded guilty to money laundering).

In golf, Daly's talent is his to waste.

And when he shows up on a summer weekend on a course outside Flint, and opens with a ridiculous birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch, the masses embrace him like a favorite relative who just came home.

In this era, when famous athletes seem to get arrested every day, many sports fans are conflicted. We're not sure if we should ignore the transgressions so we can feel good about the games, or ignore the games -- so we can feel good about ourselves.

If you want to enjoy sports -- if you want to embrace a flawed athlete simply for the joy of his talent -- golf is your game, and Daly is your man.

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