'They have a range here?'

John Daly's pre-round warm-up routine at the PNC Championship just became the stuff of legend

December 18, 2022

Mike Ehrmann

ORLANDO — John Daly II, a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, hadn't been expecting a long warmup from his dad. But he seemed to be expecting something. Maybe just a few putts, perhaps even a chip or two?

Little John kept looking around the range at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club as their team's tee time approached, until finally he headed to the first tee. There, he saw Big John, dispensing with a cigarette and pouring a couple of Diet Cokes into a to-go cup, waiting for his son to join him.

"They have a range here?" Daly Sr. asked, sarcastically.

"It doesn't take me long to get warmed up these days," he told him. "I'm ready to go, baby."

You couldn't have conjured-up a more on-brand John Daly scene if you tried, nor what happened next: Team Daly, the defending champions, spurred-on by some hot putting from the two-time major champ, birdied seven of their first nine holes for a front-nine 29, then made birdies on their first four holes on the back. They eventually got into the clubhouse with a closing 59 and a 24-under total, good enough to tie for second, two shots back of the team of Vijay and Qass Singh.

Daly's lack of a warmup wasn't entirely by choice. He's due for a knee-replacement surgery next week, and his swing showed it. His signature backswing is as long as ever, but his downswing is more of a lash this week. He hangs back on his right side, unable to transfer his weight over to his injured left leg.

"I've probably had more surgeries than Tiger. They just keep adding up over the last five years," Daly said earlier this week. "But when I get this metal put in this knee, hell, I got more metal than the Bionic Man does."

Daly is, indeed, one of a kind. But in watching him, you can also learn a lot. After all, you don't win two majors and sustain a career at the highest level without being a master of your craft …

Swing hard

First, the obvious: Daly learned to hit the ball a long way at an early age and never stopped. Age will rob even the most athletic golfer of distance over the years. It's why so many coaches are so laser focused on trying to get you more of it. It's perhaps the single most important part of the game today. And its why Daly's unyielding desire to swing hard has kept him playing on the PGA Tour Champions.

Pay attention to your ball position

Daly cares about his ball position—a lot. It's a lesson he's imparted to John Jr. too.

“Always check your ball position. If you’re hitting it fat or too far behind it, just move it one way or the other so you don’t. Just make it simple,” he says. “Even in Little John’s young age, he knows where that ball’s got to be.”

Find your rhythm

Daly did find time for 20 minutes to practice—before Saturday's first round—and spent most of his time hitting balls with wedge, swinging only with his left arm. This has been Daly's go-to throughout his entire career. He says that by swinging with only his left arm, it helps him smooth-out his golf swing's tempo and prevents his right hand from taking over (which causes him to miss left).

Don't take it too seriously

At the PNC this week, Daly has found himself aiming way left and hitting a borderline slice. With his ailing knee, that's all he's got. But he's not fretting it. Like any good golfer, he knows how to get the ball around the course with what he has, lean on his short game and keep your expectations in check.

"If we play our best and we do really well, that's all you can do. If we win, we win; if we don't, we don't," Daly says. "We're just going to go out and have some fun. That's what it's all about. I just love being with my son."