One day after winning his first professional golf tournament in 13 years, John Daly compared himself to Tiger Woods.
Speaking to radio host Dan Patrick on Monday, May 8, the 51-year-old Daly recalled sitting in a clubhouse several years ago drinking with other players while Tiger Woods was on the driving range working on his game.
Woods, still dressed in his workout clothes, walked into the bar.
“I tried to get him to sit down and have a beer with us,” Daly told Patrick. “He went out (and) hit (balls for) three or four hours, and me my guys were sitting in there drinking beer, having a good time. I said, ‘Tiger, sit down and have a beer or something with us.’ And he said, ‘If I had your talent, I’d be doing the same thing.'”
Patrick then dropped the big question: whether Daly possesses as much raw talent as Tiger, whose last win came in 2013.
Daly took the question head on, noting what anyone who could spell the word “golf” when Tiger Woods was dominating the sport still sees. To Daly, he and Woods are neck-and-neck in the talent department. However, part of what sets Tiger apart is what John says he never had it in him to become — a “range rat.”
“Tiger is so focused,” Daly said. “He’s a natural golfer with the mentality of Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus. I am more of a Fuzzy Zoeller, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino type guy. I am loose and fancy free. I am not going to go and beat a hundred-million balls… I can’t sit there and hit balls into a field that long. I don’t know how these guys do it.”
Although Woods has 106 professional wins to Daly’s 21, comparing the players yields some similar stats. They’re long hitters, both still averaging more than 275 yards off the tee. Daly exploded as a rookie with his signature “grip it and rip it” style, en route to a victory at the 1991 PGA Championship after starting the tournament as the ninth alternate. Daly won the 1995 Open Championship (British Open) with the same big drives.
Meanwhile, Woods, now 41, was learning a more polished game that went along with a big tee shot. Like Daly, Woods came from the world of NCAA Division I golf, but their schools couldn’t have been more different. Tiger played at Stanford. Daly was the long-driving, cheeseburger-eating renegade out of the University of Arkansas.
By 1996, the rookie Woods possessed something about his game that far outreached natural ability. It was something Daly said also outpaced Tiger’s stamina for the range. Woods won two tournaments in 1996 and earned $792,000. However, the next year began what went on to rewrite professional golf stat lines for the next generation. In 1997, Tiger Woods won four times, including a 12-shot victory over Tom Kite at the Masters, Tiger’s first of four wins at Augusta.
“[Tiger’s] feel around the green when he was winning all those tournaments was better than anybody’s — almost to a point where you could say it was better than Nicklaus’,” Daly said.
Was Tiger’s feel better than Daly’s? Far better, John said.
“I think Tiger has always been 1-2-3-4 steps ahead of me in this game,” he said. “His focus and mentality is probably one of the strongest I have ever seen in a golfer. It is really close to what Nicklaus did… I’m a streaky player. I am not a great putter every day. Luckily, I was a great putter for three days.”
Daly putted well last weekend, good enough to win the 2017 Insperity Invitational for his fist PGA Tour Champions title. But it was a bit streaky down the stretch. Daly carded bogeys on the final three holes and finished -14, one stroke better than Tommy Armour III and Kenny Perry.
His last win came at the 2004 Buick Invitational, where Tiger Woods tied for 10th.
[Featured Image by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]