Reformed Daly on new high after kicking drugs and drink

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 April, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 April, 2001, 12:00am

John Daly will be trying like crazy to avoid the high numbers in Macau next week. On the golf course, that is, not the casino. Daly's days of gambling and drinking binges are behind him and on the long road back to the top it's just the occasional big number on his scorecard that is acting as a speed bump for the two-time Major champion.

Daly, who along with last year's European number one Lee Westwood will provide the star appeal in next week's US$250,000 Macau Open on the Davidoff Tour, has been pretty consistent this season on the PGA Tour but still gets tripped up by the odd eight or nine.

'There just seems to be one or two holes that grab me - hit the wrong places and take a big number,' said Daly, who won the 1991 US PGA Championship and the 1995 British Open before his career was derailed.

'I have always been something of a perfectionist so when I hit a bad shot [in the past] I got very upset. Now I just try and be positive about it.'

The tight Macau Golf and Country Club layout, with its spectacular vistas over the South China Sea, might at first glance not seem the ideal location for a monster masher like Daly but he has learned to control his aggression.

While the 'grip it and rip it' style which made him famous is still very much apparent - Daly ranks first in driving on the PGA Tour this season with a colossal average of 301.9 yards - he is swinging less hard and not always with a driver off the tee.

'It's the same swing I have always had,' Daly said. 'It's just slower. I looked at when I was winning and I wasn't swinging real hard, my rhythm was just very good. It just looked like I was swinging good because of the length of my swing.'

But Daly is still very much a crowd pleaser and there are certain holes at the Macau Golf and Country Club where he can open up and go for the green. Daly has the ability to shoot really low, as shown by his tally of 170 birdies in 12 events this season, and likes nothing better than showcasing his talents on the world stage.

He drew huge galleries to Fanling when he teed up in the 1998 Hong Kong Open (he finished joint 19th) and thrilled the spectators at the Carlsberg Malaysian Open in February where he tied for 14th.

'I'm looking forward to the trip [to Macau]. It's nice to go overseas and hopefully, I can keep playing the way that I have been [this season],' said Daly.

His performances this year have seen him make nine cuts from 12 starts on the PGA Tour, record a ninth place finish at the Phoenix Open and earn US$254,260 for 67th spot on the moneylist.

He receives massive support wherever he plays and the honesty with which he talks about his alcohol and gambling problems just adds to his popularity factor.

Daly will turn 35 tomorrow and will celebrate with water - a new found passion - or an energy drink. 'I no longer feel the need to have a drink [of alcohol],' he said.

The thousands of fans expected to make the trip to Macau next week to watch Daly will see one big difference from his appearance at the 1998 Hong Kong Open - he is so much slimmer weighing in at 210 pounds compared to a high of 262 pounds.

'I took myself off anti-depressants pills last February. While I was on them I blotted to 262 pounds and I lost energy. Since coming off them I have tons of energy - my body told me to get off them. When I was taking them I had the sweats at night, severe headache and a lack of energy. I never felt right on them,' he said.

With his fresh confidence, easy rhythm and new clubs - he has teamed up with Hippo this season after being dropped by Callaway - Daly just needs one more ingredient to ensure a boom week in Macau. Lady luck presenting him with a run of low numbers.