John Daly: 'Wild Thing' hopes to tame PGA Tour Champions circuit

John Daly of the USA on the par four 2nd hole during the pro-am event prior to the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club
Two-time major winner John Daly turned 50 on 28 April

Leicester City's stunning Premier League success prompts thoughts of 1991, and a golfing shock on a similar scale.

And the identity of that year's US PGA winner makes it all the more pertinent.

John Daly will this week begin his career on the seniors circuit, no doubt looking to recoup some of the financial losses that have blighted his extraordinary career to date.

A quarter of a century ago, this blond-haired big hitter may not have been a 5,000-1 shot, but he was certainly a rank outsider. He was the ninth alternate to appear in the field for the PGA at Crooked Stick in Indiana.

It took Mark James deciding to stay at home, Lee Trevino's mental exhaustion, Gibby Gilbert's inner ear problem, Paul Azinger's shoulder surgery, Bill Sander's bad back, Mark Lye not being interested if he couldn't have a practice round, Brad Bryant attending to family issues in Texas and Nick Price becoming a father just to get Daly into the tournament.

John Daly sells merchandise to fans on Washington Road outside his mobile home prior to the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2010
Daly makes an appearance every year at The Masters - selling signed merchandise from his tour bus

The then 25-year-old, who missed 11 cuts in 23 tournaments that year, drove from Memphis to Indianapolis at the last moment. He teamed up with Price's caddie, the late Jeff 'Squeaky' Medlin, and promptly overpowered a course he had never before seen.

Golf had never quite witnessed a player like 'Long' John Daly. With a backswing that sent the clubhead so far past parallel it was nearly touching his left ankle, he bombed the ball astonishing distances.

Course designer Pete Dye's intended doglegs were rendered redundant on the soft fairways during an astonishing week. "I just remember every hole he'd go, 'Where do I hit it here, Squeaky?'" playing partner Billy Andrade recalled.

"John was like a blind man with a guide dog. He didn't miss a lot of shots."

Daly trailed Ian Woosnam and Kenny Knox by two strokes after the first round but hit the front during a second-round 67 and was never caught.

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Open 2015: John Daly's 1995 victory at St Andrews

Despite his penchant at the time for whiskey, Daly claims he remained sober all week. He won by three strokes despite a three-putt double bogey on the 71st green.

A rule change introduced in 1989 robbed him of playing in that year's Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island. It was no longer automatic for an American PGA champion to be given a place in the US team.

Daly was overlooked again four years later despite conquering the Old Course to win the Open. Having taken the role of BBC Radio 5 live interviewer, I vividly remember that windswept week in Fife.

The original "grip it and rip it" golfer was among the most engaging of interviewees. Standing next to the R&A clubhouse, he cuddled his then wife as his closest rival Costantino Rocca came up the final hole.

When the Italian duffed his chip it seemed all over, and husband and wife held each other even tighter. But when Rocca sensationally holed his putt through the Valley of Sin, Daly abruptly dropped his other half, stating: "I gotta go!"

He duly won the play-off but never again fulfilled his massive potential. There was too much indiscipline, too many skirmishes with the authorities, too many wives (four) and too many tumbles from the wagon.

No golfer has a longer rap sheet. Eleven times he was cited by the PGA Tour for conduct "unbecoming a professional", and 21 times for "failure to give best effort".

Yet fans have always loved him. That is why sponsors continued to give him invitations long after he lost his Tour card in 2007.

John Daly of the United States' outfit during a practice round prior to the start of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool
Daly is renowned for his 'loud' trousers

For most leading professionals, turning 50 provides an enticing opportunity to top up an already healthy bank balance.

But for Daly, as he embarks on this veteran stage of his career, the stakes seem somewhat higher.

Rediscovering the qualities that made him a two-time major champion would help him reap much-needed spoils from the lucrative PGA Tour Champions circuit.

The US-based 26-tournament schedule has total prize money in excess of $55m (£37.75m), which, by coincidence, is a similar amount to that Daly claims to have lost through years of gambling and his 'Wild Thing' ways.

Daly should have been set for life, but this flawed genius found myriad ways to squander his fortune.

Every year we see his tour bus parked in the car park of Hooters restaurant close to the Augusta National during Masters week. He is there selling signed T-shirts and other memorabilia.

It feels a shoddy way for someone of such talent to be earning a living, especially given the way he provided golf with some of its most extraordinary moments.

And Daly will not lack for support as he joins the 'old guys' circuit - Bernhard Langer has already acknowledged Daly is "a huge draw".

"Deep down, he's a wonderful guy," said the 58-year-old German, who has won 26 senior events. "He's going to love this tour."

John Daly of the USA holds the trophy after winning the USPGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana, USA in August 1991
Daly is scheduled to make his Champions Tour debut at the Woodlands Country Club

The last time Daly made headlines was at the 2015 US PGA, when he hurled his six iron into Lake Michigan while running up a 10 at the par-three seventh at Whistling Straits.

Now he is preparing for this week's Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands in Texas. Bryan Naugle, the tournament's executive director, said Daly's arrival brings "a needed spark" to the tour.

"John has been known to bring a lot of fans out on the regular tour and I think it will be the same here," he said.

Daly, too, recognises this is a big opportunity.

"There is nothing greater than getting it going and having the fans getting loud and crazy," he said. "That's just the way I like them.

"I have been working really hard, looking forward to getting on the PGA Tour Champions and hoping I don't embarrass myself."

There's no doubt Daly and the game of golf would be all the more wealthy if he succeeds.

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