Rónán MacNamara in Hoylake
Trust John Daly to bring the colour to the Open Championship.
He may be long and slow and look more like Santa Claus in your local grotto at Christmas time, but the big man still brings a crowd with him – and no doubt a few birds!
It all sounds like trademark John Daly but in truth there was something quite sad about watching him trudge from the 13th green to the 14th tee box and from the tee to the fairway. Aged just 57, Daly was hobbling around like an old man in his 80s.
Unable to keep up with his playing partners as they motor on ahead of him, his caddie power walks to maintain the pace of play leaving Daly to bow his head and drag his feet along after him. It’s no wonder he uses a cart on the Champions Tour.
While his best days are long, long, long behind him, he’s still as cute as a fox. Playing alongside the much younger Taylor Moore and Danny Willett he watches them hack out of the right rough on 14. Willett lays up to 60 yards while the long, thick rough wraps around the club of Moore and sends his ball tumbling across the fairway into the left rough where he faces the same problem all over again.
Up steps Daly dressed in a black waterproof/windbreaker and bright orange trousers with ‘Hooters’ scribbled all over them to deliver a contender for shot of the day. Not for the result but the sheer skill.
From 183 he launches a low piercing hybrid into the wind. The ball starts towards the sea and carves in over the left hand dunes and disappears for what seems like an eternity, never to be seen again. Muted applause turns into a rapturous roar from the grandstand as Daly’s ball meanders around and into the heart of the green.
Once an Open champion (1995) always an Open champion.
A complete shadow of his former self is ‘wild thing’ but the love and adoration still remains from the galleries who are 2-3 deep following him and cheering his name with every shuffling step.
JD’s head never rises, his bushy Snow White beard rubbing against the chest of his wind cheater, he never waves or acknowledges the crowd in any way. Behind the expensive sunglasses are the eyes of a beaten man, but a man who is still adored.
The man who gave Diet Coke its name.
It was only one hole of Daly who at +12 was by no means setting the world alight, but it was worth it. Flashes of brilliance to prove this man is still well able to play, the golf swing hasn’t let him down… yet.
In the group ahead is current leader of the Open Championship, Brian Harman with barely a sinner to be seen. Traipsing up the par-5 15th – before cutting across to the media centre via the fourth – there is no need for crowd control marshalls, no need for the press to be the inside the ropes, this is the leader of the Open Championship on course to card one of the finest rounds of his career and yet nobody knows.
A crippled Daly took triple the numbers along for the ride – maybe for some VIP passes to Hooters – and he remains a man worth seeing before he packs it in for good.