This is the week John Daly would normally be at the Masters. A two-time major winner, he hasn’t been a participant in the storied tournament since 2002, but remains an annual fixture while selling his apparel out of a trailer parked next to a Hooters near Augusta National Golf Club.
For the past few years, Daly arrived the Saturday before tournament week and didn’t leave until the afternoon of the final round. For 12 hours a day, he sold and autographed everything he brought for purchase: pictures, pin flags, hats, beanies, head covers, shirts and pants. Golf fans from around the world filtered through his offerings mainly because they wanted to meet Daly, who remains one of golf’s most beloved figures. One time he even signed a woman’s bare bottom.
“It’s like Arnold Palmer told me at his locker when me and Fuzzy [Zoeller] and Hubert [Green] were sitting there having a cocktail together,” Daly recalled. “He said, ‘Look if this ever ends — people taking pictures and asking for autographs — then your career is over.’ It does get tiresome, and as the day goes on people who’ve had a bit too much to drink can get a little mean. But everybody has a good time and that’s kind of what it’s about.”
The 2020 Masters has been postponed until Nov. 12-15 due to COVID-19, so Daly isn’t parked outside Hooters on Washington Avenue, but practicing social distancing at the golf course he owns in Dardanelle, Ark.
“My brother is the superintendent,” Daly said in a telephone interview with The Post. “My daughter runs the shop. I get out and help my brother by cutting the greens and rolling fairways. Luckily, I can at least get on my course and do some stuff. I’ve only had just family come out and play it. Everybody is keeping their distance and not touching the flags and all that stuff.”
The RV that Daly planned to take to Augusta remains fully stocked. It’s a process that first began more than 20 years ago when some viewed Daly as a struggling golf pro trying to make an extra buck. Daly’s life has played out like a tragedy at times, with his general health a recurring concern.
He deteriorated physically to the point at which he sought and was granted permission to ride a cart during the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black last year. He was criticized by several of his peers, including Tiger Woods, for pursuing that option.
Daly, 53, said he had knee surgery on Nov. 5, which has relieved much of the pain and he had planned to walk at the British Open, which was canceled last week. But he is still dealing with dizzy spells that could impact the remainder of his career.
“I’m a newly diagnosed diabetic,” Daly told The Post. “I’ve got to be careful. I’ve got the insulin right. I’ve got everything right. I was having dizzy spells for about a year. Add high blood pressure and not the greatest of livers … to me that scares me more than the knee. I know the knee will get better.”
Daly played in eight Masters, the last in 2002, when he made the cut and tied for 32nd. His best finish was a third-place tie in 1993, when a closing round of 69 left him 5-under for the tournament, six shots behind Bernhard Langer, who won the second of his two Masters.
Daly’s fame erupted when he won the 1991 PGA Championship in his first-ever major and later added the 1995 British Open. The fans haven’t forgotten, at least not the ones who line up outside Hooters during the Masters to buy his gear.
“Even when I played the Masters, I would go to Hooters,” Daly said. “A buddy of mine used to run it and I’d do two to three hours, depending on my tee time and stuff. The last few years it’s just been 12-hour days. It’s tough on my feet and everything, but I love it. To see the fans and know that I’m still appreciated and let them know how much I love them. If I’m not in the [Augusta National] gates at least I’m close to it.”
Daly isn’t sure if he’ll make it to Augusta in November. He’s a regular on the Champions Tour and normally does about 30 corporate dates during the year. The Masters is the only event to which he brings an RV filled with stuff to sell.
“The money is not great, but it’s fun and it’ll pay a few bills,” Daly said. “I’m stocked and loaded. It’ll just have to sit there and wait until November I guess.”