Fan favorite John Daly turning his game and life around
By Mike Wadsworthmwadsworth@abcnews4.com
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - John Daly's play at the 2012 PGA Championship has been one of those pleasant surprises this year. His game and look on the course, a flashback to the Daly of 20 years ago when he captured the Wanamaker trophy in 1991.
"We kept watching clips of '91 and we said that's it," said Daly's girlfriend of four and half years, and Hooters promotional director Anna Cladakis. "Me and the kids are convincing him. He's growing out the mullet," she said Saturday afternoon.
Cladakis said a picture of Daly in '91 hangs on the fridge at home.
But while his performance this weekend suggests John Daly is 'back,' this isn't the Daly of old.
"We've been through a lot together and I'm really proud of him," said Cladakis Saturday afternoon. "John has set some goals and he's accomplished a lot of them."
Daly finished fifth last weekend at the Reno-Tahoe Open and is within striking distance of overall co-leaders Rory Mcilroy and Vijay Singh going into Sunday.
"After the beginning of the year, it all came together," said Cladakis. "He's in a very calming place."
Cladakis says it started in January when Daly's two daughters came to live with him again. The positive change in his personal life has carried over to everything.
"He used to say, 'this course beat me up' or 'this or that happened,'" said Cladakis. "He's looking at things more positively. That's totally opposite of what 'old' John would have said."
Family and friends are out on Kiawah Island to support Daly this week. You can find Cladakis wearing a pair of shorts to match Daly's pants for the day. Red, white, and blue were the colors Saturday, the same design worn by the USA men's beach volleyball team in the Olympics.
Also at the Ocean Course is Daly's 7-year-old son, John Jr. Rumor has it, the kid isn't too bad of a golfer himself. Cladakis says little John usually completes the foursome with his dad.
"Little John is like, 'why can't I be out there with him?' says Cladakis. "John will be the first to tell you, little John is there for the pitching and putting."
Maybe it's a new perspective, maybe the presence of family, but John Daly is back playing solid golf, and doing it in style.
Daly sports pants made by Loud Mouth Golf, a fitting name for clothes with colors that jump right off the pant-leg.
All proceeds from customers that bought the pant Daly wore Friday, will go to a program called Don't Fear the Finger, which promotes prostate examinations.
Daly will look for his game to standout as much as his clothing on Sunday. He is +2 for the tournament when play suspended at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, due to rain. That is eight shots behind leaders Rory Mcilroy and Vijay Singh. Daly first has three holes to play to complete his third round.
It will be a tough task for Daly to win Sunday, but his performance has already gone beyond his goal to just make the cut.
"Of course he wanted to win," said Cladakis. "He said to me, 'I'll be jumping up and down if I could finish top five'."
"If his putter gets hot, he'll be there," said Stewart Houston, a Hooters Franchise owner who has known Daly for five years. Hooters was a long-time sponsor of Daly.
"It's great to see, there's a lot of people out here rooting for him," he said.
Even if Daly isn't able to pull out a win tomorrow at the 2012 PGA Championship, his play this week has been enough to get plenty of fans talking and following him around the Ocean Course.
"John turns 45 this year. He says, 'I still have a lot in me,'" says Cladakis.
His fans hope so too. It's the ups and downs of life and golf that have made John Daly a fan favorite for years. It appears he's on the way up, once again, on and off the course.