SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Years of addiction, blow-ups and wrecked marriages earned John Daly the moniker ‘Wild Thing’ but at 46 the American says he has finally found the maturity to match his unquestionable talent.
With his crowd-pulling ‘grip it and rip it’ style and unconventional swing that resulted in huge driving distances, Daly shot to fame with his 1991 U.S. PGA Championship win, followed by his success at the 1995 British Open.
Despite his potential, Daly’s game then fell apart in the midst of four divorces and an alcohol addiction all documented on his first music album in 2010.
Tournament invite exemptions ended as the American toured around with limited success relying on sponsors invites as his world ranking fell to 827 last year.
An ugly row with organizers at an event in Australia which grabbed unwanted headlines added insult to injury.
While Daly acknowledged he remains as capable of shooting an 83 as a 63 he said he was a much calmer figure now.
“The intriguing thing about me is I don’t know which John Daly will show up on the golf course,” he told reporters on Tuesday before this week’s Singapore Open.
”But I know it’s a more trying, more dedicated John Daly every day.
”This year particularly I’ve had some horrific rounds and horrific ball-striking rounds, and I’ve hung in there and that’s the thing I wish I had learnt at a young age.
”But I didn‘t, I had no one to teach me that. My course management I didn’t learn until I got on tour, a little in college.
”I‘m 46 now and I think I’ve learned an awful lot on managing golf courses a little better and picking my poison, whether to go for it or not.
“Early 90s I had no clue, I just went for everything.”
A more considered approach has left the American optimistic about retaining his PGA and European Tour cards this year - an unusual situation for the flamboyantly dressed Daly.
Currently he is 143rd on the PGA Tour money list needing to stay in the top 150 for more tournament invites next year, while he sits 81st in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
“I have some decisions to make,” the world number 191 said when asked if he would play both tours next year.
“But it’s the first year going into the next year that I’ve actually got positive decisions to make instead of sitting at home wondering where am I going to play.”
While retaining his cards remains the key goal, a return to the winner’s circle is also an ambition.
Daly’s last title came at the 2004 U.S. PGA Tour’s Buick Open where he defeated Luke Donald and Chris Riley in a playoff but the American was upbeat.
”The way I‘m hitting the ball I feel like I can,“ Daly said. ”I wouldn’t be playing the game if I didn’t feel I could compete and win.
“I‘m more competitive that I’ve ever been now and I think it’s a wide awakening for me, I got complacent in the 90s, I was exempt for so long, thinking, well there’s always next week.”
Editing by Alastair Himmer