The Monster Truck of Golf

"It's one good round of golf," John Daly said Thursday. "But it's one I really, really needed." (Streeter Lecka - Getty Images)
By Sally Jenkins
Friday, August 10, 2007


By the 10th tee, John Daly's face was the color of fried baloney, except for the pale creases that separated his three chins. His billowing, sweat-soaked belly flopped over his sagging khaki pants, and there were sweat-darkened blotches behind both knees, and at his thighs where they chafed. He looked barely able to stand upright. Nevertheless, he strode over to his golf bag and seized his driver.

"What's he doing that for?" a spectator said, upset. "Nobody hits driver here."

Daly took a couple of practice swipes with the club and peered into the distance, down the 366-yard, dogleg par 4, narrow as a hallway.

"He doesn't need to do that," the spectator said, his voice rising.

Daly's motion was like the downswing of an oil derrick. The ball shot over a far line of oaks, and continued to rise in a three-tiered arc. Spectators erupted in a baying noise, a sound somewhere between alarm and gratification. The ball curled around the corner and disappeared from sight. Eventually, it settled on a slope, pin high. He had practically driven the green.

While others made slow, hushed progress in the opening round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills on Thursday, Daly caromed across the course and into second place with a round that was loud and precarious, a complete disaster waiting to happen and yet spectacularly averted.

"To be honest, I was waiting to make a seven or eight," he said.

He finished with a 3-under-par 67, but that number seemed meek and hardly descriptive of all that happened on the tight, sun-chapped par 70 of Southern Hills. Most of it he couldn't even remember afterward, he was so exhausted by the 103-degree temperature and his various adventures.

"I only had three heatstrokes out there," he joked.

People hollered at him, and he waved back and obliged them with gargantuan swings at the ball, epic thrashings and titanic mistakes. He chain-smoked and pulled from a bottle of Diet Pepsi he kept stuck in his bag. He reached the 537-yard, par-5 13th hole in two, thanks to a drive that traveled almost 370 yards before catching a piece of a small tree limb. He bogeyed the 507-yard, par-4 16th with another drive into the trees. When the loyal swells in his gallery weren't wincing or ducking, they hooted with joy.

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