The always colorful John Daly has been a fan favorite ever since his unlikely rookie victory at the 1991 PGA Championship. And after recently turning 50, Daly is bringing his famous grip-it-and-rip-it style to PGA TOUR Champions competition. What does “Long John” have to say about being a rookie again? Read on.
NOTE: Daly made his PGA TOUR Champions debut May 6-8 in the Insperity Championship, where he tied for 17th. The two-time major winner (1991 PGA Championship, 1995 British Open) will make his Des Moines debut May 31-June 5 after announcing the Principal Charity Classic as one of his very first commitments on the 2016 PGA TOUR Champions schedule.
Q: Now that you’re a rookie again, you’re playing a whole new set of courses. That includes the Wakonda Club when you play in this year’s Principal Charity Classic. Will you be going by feel for the first year or so and trying to learn your way around these unfamiliar courses?
JD: I’ll feel everything out and get used to them, and that’s really basically all I can say about it. Just trying to find my way and get to know some of these courses, and hopefully get lucky a few weeks and win some of them.
Q: What are your thoughts about joining the PGA TOUR Champions?
JD: I’m really excited, one, to make it to 50, and two, just to be able to have kind of a home to play again. It’s been pretty tough the past few years, not knowing where I’m going to play and waiting by the phone on exemptions and stuff, and now that I have a category here that I can play a few years and get a schedule going and play a lot of golf, it’s going to be good for me.
Q: Are you nervous about starting your PGA TOUR Champions career?
JD: I think you can ask anybody who plays golf anymore in tournaments all over the world or whatever, whether it’s the Champions, PGA TOUR, Web.com, any of them, if you’re not nervous on the first tee, then you don’t need to be out here. I just hope it’s positive energy, and I hope for me it’s just going to be a confidence builder as the weeks go on because I’m pretty rusty right now not playing a lot of golf in the last nine months.
Q: What do you expect the PGA TOUR Champions to be like as a player?
JD: You know, these guys have played against each other for so many years, and they’ve beaten each other head-to-head and they’ve won tournaments and they’ve won majors. I feel like it’s kind of our time to go out and have a good time and play some golf, very competitive golf. But there’s no drama out here. Nobody is mad at anybody. Nobody is worried about too much of anything except going out and having a good time and playing golf.
Q: Does the PGA TOUR Champions fit your personality?
JD: Guys out here are very approachable. That always helps the sponsors, and when we’re playing the pro-ams, we have no problem helping the amateurs, either. It’s just a good fit, and I’m excited to be out here.
Q: When you look back on your PGA TOUR career (five victories including the two majors), are you satisfied or do you think you could have done more?
JD: I’m satisfied with everything in the 2000s. My mind was right, and I did everything I could to try and win golf tournaments. I wish I would have had the mental attitude back in the 90s like I do now. I think I wasted my talent in the 90s, especially towards the latter part of the 90s. All the money was coming in, and I didn’t work hard enough at it. I didn’t do the right things to prepare myself to win golf tournaments.
Q: Who do you like to watch today and why?
JD: There’s so many of them. I love Rickie Fowler’s game. I love Jason Day’s game. It’s great to see long hitters like Jason Kokrak. He’s probably the longest player I’ve seen (on the PGA TOUR). I like watching him. But there’s so many kids out there that can play. It’s fun to watch all of them, actually.
Q: Do you have any regrets about the off-the-course stuff in those times where you brought so much attention to yourself, or negative things rather than the positives of your golf?
JD: If I lived in the past, I’d be dead. So you can’t live in the past. It’s just not worth it.
Q: Which of your majors is more special, the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick or the British Open at St. Andrews?
JD: The British Open because of where it was at, being at St Andrews.
Q: Your length off the tee got a lot of attention, but do you think your short game was underappreciated during your PGA TOUR career?
JD: Well, if you looked at my short game right now, you probably wouldn’t want to see it. It’s not very good.
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter