Why John Daly’s one of the most gifted golfers of all time

By Luke Kerr-Dineen , USA TODAY Sports

John Daly, golf’s resident and unapologetic outlaw, is back in the winner’s circle. After 13 years in relative competitive obscurity, Daly qualified for the Champions Tour last year and now, thanks to rounds of 68, 65 and 69, captured his first win at the Insperity Invitational on Sunday. He certainly enjoyed himself afterwards, too.

Fun-loving celebrations aside: It’s worth asking the question whether John Daly is one of the most – if not the most – naturally talented golfer of all time. His off-course issues are well-known by this point, but here’s a man who won two majors in spite of it all, and now has a win in his 50s to go with it. His swing is a carbon copy of what it was in his younger years, too, and his average driving distance of 294 yards this year would put him ahead of Phil Mickelson, among many other younger players.

Daly’s hardly been the hardest worker through it all, either, as illustrated by none other than Tiger Woods:

It was during the 2004 Target World Challenge and Daly had just completed the Wednesday pro-am with some friends and was in the clubhouse drinking and telling stories when Tiger Woods walked into the room.

“Tiger’s there in his workout clothes and I said, ‘Tiger come have a beer with us, man,'” Daly recalls.

Woods declined, explaining that he was bound for the gym and one of his ubiquitous workout sessions. Daly persisted, “I go, ‘Man, you don’t need to work out. You need to drink a little bit with us.'”

Woods’ answer is the stuff of legend.

“He said, ‘If I had your talent I’d be doing the same thing you’re doing,'” Daly says. “I’m looking at him thinking ‘you’re crazy, man.'”

Indeed, talent has never been the problem for Daly. When golf fans look back on his career, it won’t be talent that’s hard to find; it’ll be control. His ability to harness all that raw ability that always held him back.

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