The mere fact that John Daly, the American player renown for his long drives and long bar tab in the 1990s, has lived long enough to reach 50 years old and qualify for the Champions Tour is a joke in of itself. By making it to 50, as Daly did on Thursday, he clinches a bet once offered by Fuzzy Zoeller years ago that the hefty, hard drinking American would never live that long.
Daly did what no man before him ever could in 1997, average 300 yards per drive off the tee. He continued to be the only member of an uber-exclusive club until 2003.
To celebrate his 50th birthday, which qualifies him to play on the Champions Tour, here’s a look at three signature Daly moments.
1991 PGA Championship – John Daly was effectively a nobody entering the 1991 PGA Championship. Being the ninth alternative for a Major is a bit like being the 9th-place finisher at the Miss Universe contest, then suddenly having the crown on your head. Serious golf fans knew he had finished tied for fourth at the Honda Classic and tied for third at the Cahttanooga Classic, but he had also missed 11 cuts, including two back to back in the weeks leading up to the PGA Championship.But for four marvelous days, he flipped a switch that only the greatest of champions even know about, seizing the lead by a stroke on Friday with a 67. He built the lead to three strokes following 54 rounds and looked nothing like a rookie on Sunday, breezing to a 71 to finish off one of the most improbable wins in Tour history, starting a cult of fans that has lingered to this day.
1995 Open Championship – Even 21 years later, it’s hard to say if St. Andrews knew what hit it, or has recovered since. Four years and change after his first Major win, Daly had another, rallying from four strokes down on Sunday to win a playoff against Italy’s Costantino Rocca. Tied for the lead after two rounds, Daly slipped back to a tie for fourth following Saturday. He was one of the low scorers on Sunday, getting to 6-under. Daly appeared to have won the tournament in regulation, but Rocca made a phenomenal 65-foot putt to tie Daly and force the playoff. Undaunted, Daly let the Italian self-destruct with a triple-bogey seven on the third hole of the playoff to win by four strokes.
2001 BMW Championship – Six years removed from his Open Championship win, Daly did the unthinkable again in Europe, winning the prestigious European Tour event in Munich by one stroke over huge favorite Padraig Harrington. His 27-under 261 remains a tournament record.