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“A redneck, blue-collar dumb*** like me goes and wins The Open at St Andrews. It’s awesome.”
There is only one golfer who could possibly have uttered these words – The Open Champion of 1995, John Daly.
Few golfers have made more off-course headlines than Daly, but it was the American's flaws which endeared him to golf fans – and non-golf fans – around the globe.
The newest episode of the iconic Chronicles of a Champion Golfer series, available to watch below and in The One Club Hub, covers one of the most storied careers in golf. Daly was the People's Champion.
Daly said: “I’m no different from the firemen or the guy working at McDonald’s. People can relate to my life; it’s no different [to] theirs, it’s just I play golf.
“I went down the wrong road a little bit but I had some fun doing it.”
Daly, who learned to play golf by following Jack Nicklaus’s tutorials in Golf Digest, announced himself to the world by famously winning the PGA Championship in 1991, his first year as a professional, after driving through the night to play the first round.
“Then a crazy man was born,” Daly said.
Known for his prodigious distance off the tee, he was given the nickname ‘Long John’ Daly and further success was predicted for the long-time Arkansas resident after his major breakthrough.
But off-course distractions quickly took their toll.
He admitted: “I always liked to have fun and drinking was part of it. Sometimes way too much.
“When you’re younger you think you’re invincible and you keep going and going and going. And then you get stupid, which I did many times.
“1992 to 1997 was the lowest of my life. My golf game wasn’t great, nothing seemed to go right. I lost the Wilson sponsorship, lost the Reebok sponsorship. I really didn’t feel like practising, I didn’t feel like playing a lot of golf. It was just some sad times.”
In the middle of that dark period came a chink of light in the form of The Open Championship.
Teeing it up at St Andrews in 1995 gave ‘Wild Thing’ the impetus to get his game back on track.
Daly said: “I had no confidence at all. None. My golf game wasn’t that good. I didn’t expect anything. But when I got there it was like: ‘Man! I just love it here’.
“The footsteps that have walked on St Andrews, the home of golf, where it all began. I just fell in love with it so fast.
“If there’s any way I’m going to turn my career around it’s right here.”
Seven birdies in round one set the tone for the rest of the weekend, and although he was renowned for his booming drives, it was his performance on the greens that paved the way for one of his greatest golfing days.
Four strokes behind leader Michael Campbell going into the final round – and in the face of 40mph winds – Daly lit up the front nine, birdieing holes 4, 6, 7 and 8 before a terrific up-and-down saved par on 9.
He recalled: “It might have been the best putting round of my life. Not one-putt but the two-putts.
“I don’t how many 60-, 80-, 100-footers that I two-putted. That was what I did probably the best of anybody that week.
“That day I just felt something. Next thing I know I’m up two shots on the field.”
A par on 18 allowed Daly to sign for a 71 and enter the clubhouse with a one-shot lead from Campbell, Mark Brooks and Stephen Bottomley.
Enter Costantino Rocca.
The Italian began the Sunday two shots ahead of Daly although he could not contend with the would-be Champion’s touch on the greens in the final round. But Rocca rallied.
Needing a three on the 18th to force a play-off, he duffed his second shot, a pitch which sank into the Valley of Sin, leaving him fully 65 feet from the pin. Then came one of the greatest putts in Open history.
Daly said: “I thought it was mine. I actually thought it was mine.
“That’s got to be one of the ultimate putts ever made in golf. I couldn’t believe it went in. Next thing you know we’re in a play-off.
“I didn’t want to have [a play-off] but I was ready for it. Costantino wasn’t ready for it. His emotions [hadn’t] died down. He didn’t stop shaking until the second play-off hole."
Rocca failed to compose himself and, remarkably, Daly won those extra four holes by five shots. The Claret Jug was his.
He said: “Those memories you can just never forget. It’s just the ultimate feeling.
“The names on that trophy. You could say that about a lot of majors but that one is pretty unreal.
“Some people say ‘why have you only won two majors?’ It’s not easy! Everybody thinks because you won a major it’s easy. It’s not.
“The good news is they can never take those two away from me. My name’s gonna be on there forever.
“It’s pretty incredible. The things I’ve got to do because of a crazy game chasing a white ball. It’s been a good ride.”