Chris BaldwinThis Week at October 11, 2005

Only Mickey Mantle wasted
more talent than John Daly

John Daly blew another playoff in inexplicable manner Sunday. This time, he missed a three-foot putt that would be a gimme in the most heated $2 Nassau. Which followed the last time in April, when he blasted his tee shot into the pond against Vijay Singh coming off no playoff warmup but Marlboro puffs.

And so it goes for Big John, a legend of the people who's really the worst kind of sports lout.

No athlete in any sport's squandered as much talent as John Daly since Mickey Mantle. The Mick's mea culpa came in a national TV interview with Bob Costas, when he lamented how his magnificent stats could be the best of all time. If only he hadn't nearly drunk himself to death.

Don't expect any such regret from Daly in his twilight days. For it's not alcohol (though that played its part) but hubris that did in Daly. His insistence on treating everything as a joke whether it's a trip to Hooters or a PGA playoff is what's robbed the long one of his greatness.

The big chuckler should be Tiger Woods' biggest rival, charging hard after Jack Nicklaus' magic 18 himself. You're either blind or as PC as Phil Mickelson, if you cannot see Daly's talent dictates that.

Did you watch him trump Tiger's perfect 346-yard drive over the trees on Harding Park's no. 18 with an even more perfect 357-yard bomb that played blimp over Lake Merced and the trees? No one holds more natural golf talent than Daly. No one can see the inventive shot angles on a course better.

John Daly is a golfing Mozart with the self control of your average toddler.

For there is Daly seemingly taking a short playoff putt for granted. This guy doesn't choke. He sleepwalks.

Even the usually Tony Blair-tactful pleaser Tiger Woods could not play it straight when confronted with this unbelievable bungle.

"You don't want to win a tournament like that," Woods told ABC's Judy Rankin at American Express Championship close. "We should be going onto 17 (for a third playoff hole)."

Daly simply handed his putter to a fan, like it was on the equipment, not him.

Tiger seemed more disturbed by Daly's carelessness than buoyed by his own win. The best golfer in the world knows what it means to truly respect the game.

The most talented golfer in the world? The lovable lug with the Hooters owl on his shirt, NASCAR style?

He'll never hold the slightest clue.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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