No matter how far his golf game has fallen, one thing about John Daly that's at an all-time high is his inability to recognize a PR nightmare before it happens.
The latest debacle involving Daly comes via reports in the Palm Beach Post that the two-time major champion has filed a lawsuit over a rib injury suffered during the 2007 Honda Classic. He's seeking $100 million, which is enough to get some guffaws, but in and of itself wouldn't create any uproar. Until you find out one of the parties named in the suit is the children's charity that benefits from proceeds brought in by the Honda Classic.
The rap sheet on Daly is long and storied. It includes torn up hotel rooms, incidents with wives and girlfriends, and is highlighted by the day he decided to sleep with his eyes open outside a Hooters. Those are just the ones that involved the authorities. Never mind the legendary tales of boozing and gambling. Or the day he decided to play without a shirt or shoes.
Bear in mind, earlier this year I was all set to root for Daly. I figured that the weight loss, the TV show and the apparent renewal of interest in the game would make him the season's best reclamation project. Add in his loyal Twitter following and he was ready to burst back on the scene. Golf Channel gave him premium on-course coverage (in a blatant attempt at cross-promotion) and the sponsor exemptions were pouring in. He even managed to make a few cuts. But on the course, there has been little flash or flair, aside from his gaudy new wardrobe.
It can't be cheap to hustle around the country in that sweet RV, and Daly's Tour earnings sure aren't footing the bill. Certainly it's going to take an awful lot of awful outfits for Loud Mouth to start stuffing the bank account. America loves a fallen star, a rehab project, someone who's hit rock bottom and wants to turn it around. It certainly doesn't hurt when that star was one of the most charismatic characters of the PGA Tour during the heights of his career.
But once again, Daly has become a public relations disaster.
Let's take a step back and see it through sober eyes. A favorite tactic of many lawyers is the carpet bomb approach: Sue everyone who possibly has an insurance policy and pray for a generous settlement. This explains how Daly's lawsuit could have escalated so quickly, from the host resort and the event itself, to the charity that benefitted from the proceeds. There's no shortage of tales heralding Daly's generosity, so I'd never believe he sat in an attorney's office, rubbing his hands together in a devilish manner, telling the guy behind the desk, "Let's take the Children's Healthcare Charity for all it's worth, BWAHAHA BWHAHAHA."
But that's not stopping the media and the fans from latching onto the most juicy and deplorable aspect of this entire episode.
Within hours of the news of this Honda Classic lawsuit, there was disgust spewing across the Internet.
On Twitter, the outlet where Daly speaks to his fans more than just about any athlete out there, he's being excoriated in 140 characters or less:
"John Daly is a complete freakin dirtbag. Total scumbag!" wrote WIUScott.
"I just lost all remaining respect for John Daly suing kid's charity for BS injury claim," said CliqueInBound.
On another popular golf message board, Daly's taking a pounding.
"Responsibility and Self-Control have become pretty rare characteristics, John's never had either which is why he is where he is. However, I think he hit a new low--suing a childrens charity?" asked one commenter, while another noted, "Lots of class…most of it low. Suing? A Children's charity ? Is this a bad movie ? C'mon John…please go away. Now."
Curiously, Daly's been missing from Twitter since the news broke. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
I can actually see some merit in his suit. He's long said that the rib injury devastated his career. If security was actually allowing the woman in question to jump in front of the players to take photographs, then someone should be held responsible, the same way she (or her family) would have filed lawsuits out the wazoo had someone actually planted a Pro V1 into her skull.
But in sports, where endorsement money is everything - and when you're John Daly and you've made $70,000 on the course this year, it really is everything - it's all about image. And sadly, Daly's track record means a large chunk of the public will see this as confirming their awful opinion of this fallen champion.
Play Your Way In
A day after finishing 1-2 at the Memorial, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler failed to qualify for the U.S. Open. If you ask me, the unique qualifying process for competing in our national championship helps make it special. I love the idea that Davis Love III and his Hall of Fame career need to play their way into the field, just as a dentist with a scratch handicap might.
The list of guys who made it through a 36-hole qualifier is interesting, if only because of how many Tour mainstays had to take that route. Major winners Love III, Ben Curtis and Tom Lehman all made it, as did Stuart Appleby and Brian Davis.
I'm just shocked Davis didn't get a special exemption thanks to his much ballyhooed playoff penalty. I never root against a guy, but please let Davis start 78-75 so we don't need a Sunday afternoon 5-minute gag-worthy essay on how Davis' heroic act of honor is creating world peace, ending world hunger, and capping the oil geyser.