Pebble Beach Pro-Am road seems too rocky for Daly

January 26, 1992|By Dan Hruby | Dan Hruby,Knight-Ridder News Service

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- When John Daly's driver launches a golf ball, nobody is quite sure how far it will go.

But there's a scary parallel in Daly's career.

Since it took off like a rocket last year, spotlighted by his stunning victory in the PGA Championship, nobody has a clue where that will touch down, either.

There's a chance Daly, who was known as "The Wild Thing" as an underclassman at Arkansas, might wind up out of bounds.

Already his personal life is developing more subplots than a soap opera -- he is known for heavy drinking, and a paternity and palimony suit may be filed against him within a day. He is clearly having trouble handling his career, as evidenced by his failure to enter next week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Daly should have signed up weeks ago. Anybody who is anybody on the PGA Tour is competing, because Pebble Beach is the U.S. Open site in June. The smart guys want to learn as much as they can about this esteemed track.

Daly's business agent, John Mascatello, said Daly planned to attend a golf merchandise show in Florida, do some endorsements for a golf company and then fly to Australia for a skins game and tournament.

"Unfortunately, John will miss the [National Pro-Am] and I've informed [tournament director] Lou Russo," Mascatello said. "Naturally, there's always the possibility something could change."

I took that to mean Daly, as unpredictable as he is, might do a 180-degree turn. Something like he did last month when he pulled out of the Ben Hogan Invitational on the Monterey Peninsula after committing in writing. He had even lined up friends from Arkansas to play with, friends who played even after Daly withdrew because of what he called "fatigue and burnout."

Daly no doubt has been on a mad merry-go-round since he won the PGA in August. Seeking to cash in on his feat, he has visited Japan, South Africa, Hawaii and Jamaica. The money is engulfing him. It is estimated his PGA title, the first major won by a rookie since 1976, already has made him $1 million. Golfers love power, and Daly, with a backswing that stretches two feet beyond parallel, has electrified fans and players alike.

Daly, however, can be equally long on partying ("I'll have a Jack Daniels and Coke, please"). He has been hospitalized more than once for overdoing it. His behavior can be erratic. In the Jamaica event, for instance, he broke his putter in two in the second round, fired a 51 on the back nine and withdrew.

Daly, 25, has become a concern to two of the game's legends, FTC who have noted his problems on the course as well as off, as exemplified by his row with longtime traveling companion Bettye Fulford, 39. Her lawyer said Daly has until Friday to respond to her financial demands or be sued.

"I hope John knows the responsibility that's been bestowed upon him," Arnold Palmer said. "Golf did a flip-flop when he was so outstanding in winning the PGA. I hope he's aware the eyes of the world are upon him and he has to carry on the etiquette, traditions and integrity the game has lived with for more than 100 years."

Jack Nicklaus said he would be "more than happy to sit down and talk" to Daly if he desires.

"I think John has a great future, but it depends on how he handles himself," Nicklaus said.

Daly could be the next Nicklaus. But Nicklaus would never

shortchange his preparation to win a major. In Daly's shoes, Nicklaus would be at Pebble Beach next week. Daly won't. Too bad.

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