I texted John Daly on Thursday, asking if the old Mickey Mantle quote—“If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”—applied to him.

While back in the bus he travels in, chilling after the opening-round 74 at the 98th PGA Championship at Baltusrol, it took about 30 seconds before JD gave me a response.

“Hell no,” shot back the two-time major champion. “I eat what I want and I drink what I want and not a chance of making it to 50 lol.”

The reference to age 50 was from a bet for $150,000 Daly made with Fuzzy Zoeller two decades ago after a binge at Augusta. Daly won when he hit the milestone birthday in April. Zoeller hasn’t paid, and Daly jokes that he’s only looking for a bottle of Fuzzy’s vodka.

“I’m still young at heart,” Daly said. “I’ll never grow old.”

“Probably in the ’90s practice like I am now, give myself a better chance to compete better,” Daly said after lighting up a Marlboro. “All the money was coming in. I thought the world was mine. That was stupid.”

It was 25 year ago that Daly pulled off his epic PGA victory at Crooked Stick. After a quarter century of hard living, Long John—whose best finish in eight events on the PGA Tour Champions circuit this year has been T-11 continues to be part of the major-championship scene through his exemptions in the PGA and the Open Championship, which he won at St. Andrews in 1995, the same year Mantle died at age 63.

At Baltusrol, one memory from his T-33 finish at the U.S. Open in 1993 still lives. In the second round, Daly became the first and still only player to hit the uphill par-5 17th (then playing 630 yards) in two shots in an official competition. Like Mantle, the man had immense talent.

On the range Wednesday at Baltusrol, I asked John if he had a chance to do it all over again, what would he do different?

“Probably in the ’90s practice like I am now, give myself a better chance to compete better,” Daly said after lighting up a Marlboro. “All the money was coming in. I thought the world was mine. That was stupid.”

Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 11: Golf: PGA Championship, John Daly victorious after making putt on No, 18 and winning championship during Sunday play at Crooked Stick GC, Carmel, IN 8/11/1991 (Photo by Jacqueline Duvoisin/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (SetNumber: X41768 TK4)

Other than that, there were no regrets. Another text from John recycled a quote that came out of his mouth during the 2015 Open at St. Andrews. “I don’t work out,” he said. “I put out.”

Daly still draws large galleries and gets plenty of pick up on social media. At Baltusrol, he was hard to miss. During Tuesday night’s Champions Dinner, he broke out a stars-and-stripes patterned sports jacket. And in Thursday’s opening round, in which he was paired with former champions Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh, Daly’s pants had a confetti motif.

The relaxed authenticity is what makes Daly so incredibly popular. Between drags on the cigarette, he said, “The yellow shirt that I wore yesterday was almost black from all the sharpie marks on it.”

There is only one John Daly, but his understudy could be the breakout star of the summer, 27-year-old Andrew (Beef) Johnston. They met at the 2012 BMW International, got to know each other while paired together at last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and developed a bond by hanging out during the Turkish Open. After Johnston won the Spanish Open earlier this year, Beef said he couldn’t wait to get back home to England “to get hammered.”

“He thought he could drink whiskey like me,” Daly said. “That didn’t pan out too good. He tried to keep up, but just couldn’t.”

Probably not a bad thing.

This article first appeared in the July 29, 2016 issue of Golf World.

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