Daly and Willett – How the Mighty Have Fallen, and the Fallen are Again Mighty
I’ve followed John Daly for so long that I’m surprised that either one of us is still around. It’s been wild, colorful, outrageous, absurd, incredible, and entirely unpredictable. And through all of it, something in me has always sort of liked the guy, even though my mother might have told me not to. For the last 13 years, John Daly has been high on the list of “Where are they now?” When spotted, he is more than likely selling T-shirts at Augusta, running out of golf balls and walking off the course, or personally leading a fashion line that defines the anti-subtlety movement. He’s not the big workaholic that many great golfers are. He wraps his backswing around his calves, takes a drag off a cigarette, and probably keeps his head still by balancing a beer mug on top of it. But man oh man, can the guy play golf!. I wonder how many majors Daly would have won had he been a normal person. What a loss that would have been for all of us. Well, good ol’ Daly is in his 50s now, and last week, he won the Insperity Invitational. He bogeyed the last three holes, but he still won it. Fairly new to the Champions Tour, he has now won on all three PGA tours, one of 12 men to do so. His famed hitting power has dipped to a woeful 294 yards per drive (remove tongues from cheeks). The two-major winner did it again in Americn flag pants, and beat out Kenny Perry and Tonmy Armour III. That reminds me that we’re both so old, we can remember Tommy Armour the First! Daley’s take for the weekend was somewhere above $300,000. That should offer some salve for the lean years, of which there have been plenty. What a week of golf, i thought. And then there was even more, a quasi opposite story, featuring the still youbng Danny Willett.
Danny Willett isn’t exactly a household name but any true golf tournament devotee should know that the Yorkshireman won the 2016 Masters, something Daly was never able to do. Jonathan Smart was his caddie, and has been since around 2010. The two guys grew up together, best friends, the whole nine yards. And then, suddenly, they weren’t.
Daly has probably caused more than one or two caddies to quit along the way, but Danny Willett accomplished a first, as far as we know. Following his brilliant Masters play, Willett’s game has decayed to the point where, according to one golf writer, it just ‘sucks.’ That odious word is better reserved for games like mine, but no, it was used for the game of a Masters winner. Things got so bad, in fact, that at the RBC Heritage, Willett’s long-time friend and caddie…well, he fired himself. That came after Willett accused Smart of giving him bad yardage. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t, but it was Willett making the decision, and Willett swinging the club – end of story. A bad shot should have been followed by “You sure, John? Let’s make a note of that for next round.” But no, Smart had enough, packed his bags and left after the first round, in the true spirit of John Daly.. Willett, the son of a vicar, made the obvious response, by putting the best man from his wedding on the bag for the rest of the tournament.
It all creates an interesting scenario of perception, the ongoing optics of these two players. Daly burns brighter than ever in the imagination, whether for good or ill. Willett, on the other hand, is increasinly looking like the drabbest champion to ever wear the green jacket. The beauty of the whole golf thing, however, is that it might all change by tomorrow. And that’s why we keep watching the Dalys and the Willetts.