Depicted by Appleby as 'train wreck,' Daly says he's fighting way through life

Updated: November 26, 2008, 4:19 PM ET
Associated Press

MELBOURNE, Australia -- John Daly is back in Australia after six years, hoping to put years of golfing decline and personal self-destruction behind him in the country where he had one of his most dramatic meltdowns.

"Everybody has problems and I'm a fighter. I'm a survivor and I'll get through anything people can throw at me," Daly said Wednesday. "I've done a lot of stupid things I take responsibility for, but a lot of it came upon me. It's just life. We've got to live it and get through it."

Did anybody survive? I'm still surviving the train wreck.

--John Daly

Daly, a two-time major winner, hasn't had his PGA Tour card since 2006. He comes to the Australian Masters, which begins Thursday, a month after spending a night in jail in Winston, N.C., and a week after his best tournament of the year -- a final-round 62 Sunday that left him tied for 17th at the Hong Kong Open.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can, trying to get my golf game back," Daly said. "Everybody goes through ups and downs in life. Unfortunately mine are more publicized than most."

In 2008 alone, those "downs" included being fired by his swing coach Butch Harmon and a disqualification at the Arnold Palmer Invitational -- not to mention the drunken evening at a Hooters that landed him in jail Oct. 27.

But his troubles have been balanced by immense talent that helped him win the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open. This week, Australian golfer Stuart Appleby compared Daly's natural ability to that of Tiger Woods, but described the burly American's life as a "train wreck."

Daly's reaction: "Did anybody survive? I'm still surviving the train wreck."

Daly attributes most of his failings on the course the past two years -- he made only five of 17 cuts on the PGA Tour and earned $56,000 this year -- to a rib injury. He said stem-cell therapy in August has led to a significant improvement.

And his confidence is on the rise after Hong Kong.

"I like the way I'm hitting the ball. I'm trying to feed off last week. I hit the ball really well," he said. "I'm playing again and getting my swing back. Here if you just hit the fairways and putt well you can play good. If I keep working hard at it hopefully something good might happen."

After Melbourne, he'll play the Australian PGA (Dec. 4-7) in Coolum, where he made a stormy exit in 2002.

Playing a week after his mother died, Daly threw his putter and ball into the lake on the 18th green after a 78 in the Australian PGA, where he received a $200,000 appearance fee. He was disqualified for failing to sign his card, fined $5,600 and ordered to write an apology to a tour official he verbally abused.

And that wasn't his first episode Down Under.

In 1997, at the Heineken Classic, Daly shot a third-round 83 and then played the final round in just 2 hours, 10 minutes, angering tournament officials who had paid him a large appearance fee.

At the Australian Masters, Daly will face mostly a local field for the $975,000 tournament at Huntingdale Golf Club.

The favorite is Robert Allenby, who was 11th on the PGA Tour in 2008 with $3.6 million in prize money without winning a tournament. The Australian has been consistent, but hasn't won anywhere since victories at the Australian Masters, Australian Open and Australian PGA in 2005.

"I'm here to try and win all three again," Allenby said.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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