(Reuters) - Long-hitting John Daly celebrated his 50th birthday on Thursday, the official stamp of approval to earn him a spot at next week’s Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands in Texas for his debut on the over-50s Champions Tour.
A prodigious driver of the golf ball with a magician’s touch around the greens, the ‘Wild Thing’ has been one of the sport’s biggest drawcards since he turned professional in 1987 and is certain to attract fans in droves on the seniors circuit.
Daly, a five-times winner on the regular PGA Tour where two of his victories came in major championships, readily admits his game is in rusty shape but he is eagerly looking forward to once again competing against some of his long-time friends.
“It’s a new chapter,” Daly said in an interview with pgatour.com while preparing for the May 6-8 Insperity Invitational. “It’s going to be kind of a year of testing the waters.
“I’m looking forward to it and seeing some of my old buddies out there. Fuzzy (Zoeller) and Hubert Green were my favorites. Ben Crenshaw, Craig Stadler. Tom Watson always took me under his wing.
“It’s great that I’m going to be able to come out and play golf with them again.”
Daly has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2004 Buick Invitational in San Diego and has relied mainly on sponsor’s invites in recent years to play tournament golf.
“It’s not good,” he said when asked about his form. “I’m working on everything. My driving is really, really good. It’s just that my putting really isn’t where I want it to be. My wedges aren’t really dialled in right now.
“This has been a crazy seven years, just not being able to play as much as I want to, not being able to get into many tournaments. So I’m going to have really work my butt off to get it back.”
Daly claimed his first major title at the 1991 PGA Championship after finding out just a day before the tournament began that he would be playing, then followed that with a victory at the British Open in 1995.
However, he has not won anywhere since 2004, has slipped steadily down the rankings to 987 and has rarely been out of the headlines while spending much of his adult life struggling with alcohol, anti-depressants, gambling and divorces.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue