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Daly has the last laugh

THE team talk delivered by honorary Yorkshire skipper John Daly in the second running of the War of the Roses couldn’t stop the trophy heading back over the Pennines.

Addressing his troops from the balcony of the Moor Allerton clubhouse the two-time major winner told them in true tongue in cheek Wild Thing fashion: “Let’s get drunk, play fast and if you can cheat and not get caught, do it. We can win this thing!”

All this while Lancashire captain Paul Scholes was nonchalantly stroking away on the putting green below.

The speech left many of his team slightly bemused including former Huddersfield Giant Eorl Crabtree, who was one of several celebrities representing the Tykes. Big Eorl said: “I’ve heard some team talks in my time but never one like that!”

Some took their captain literally, helping themselves to a large Langton’s G&T at the free gin bar as they headed for the shotgun start. Equally flummoxed were his play ing partners for the front nine as music lover Daly fired up the speaker loaded into his golf cart and played his favourite country and western songs for the rest of the round – at volume.

He had also loaded a man-sized cooler containing everything from packs of Marlboros to diet coke and pills for “everything from diabetes to arthritis”. Never a dull day with Daly.

JD played out his grip it and rip it approach to the letter, admonishing his caddie and business manager in Europe Simon Hurd when he wouldn’t let him hit driver on every hole. But he did reduce many of the par 4s to a drive and a flick including one prodigious tee shot which landed pin high on the 381 yard 16th.

He also loved the short 17th making two 2s as the amateurs took on Ladies European Tour player Sophie Walker in a ‘beat the pro’ shoot-out.

However, Daly was limping heavily due to osteo-arthritis in his right knee by the end. It is likely to rule him out of the Open Championship at Royal Portrush later this month, as the R&A won’t give him a buggy.

“I might walk 9 holes and see how hard the course is on me physically but I’m 80% sure I won’t there. My knee is just too bad but they want to wait another three years before they replace it as at 53, they say I’m too young.”

First in driving distance for years on the PGA Tour Daly attributes his trademark long backswing to starting out at 4 using a men’s set of clubs. “I had a set of MacGregor Jack Nicklaus clubs and they were so long and heavy that I almost used to hit the ground on my backswing. Dad wanted to cut them down but I wouldn’t let him.”

His first appearance in a major was aged 19-year-old in the US Open at Shinnecock Hills where he shot 88 in the second round to miss the cut. But he made the most of his next opportunity when Nick Price’s wife went into labour on the eve of the 1991 PGA Championship. Daly was 9th reserve but they couldn’t contact any of the eight in front of him. He won.

“That week was a blur. I drove all night to get to Crooked Stick for my tee time and didn’t even have a practice round. It really did not sink in until the week after.”

His next major win was his most memorable. “As a kid I dreamed of winning the Open. Nicklaus said that if you win the Open at St Andrews you have done it all and that’s the way I look at it. Very special.”

Long John is the only two- time major winner not to have played in the Ryder Cup. “They picked their buddies back then. Colin Montgomerie said he would have picked me had I been from this side of the pond. The Europeans make it fun. I would love to captain the Europeans.”

Over 180 guests enjoyed dinner followed by a Q&A with former snooker star Willie Thorne. “I was big in the 70’s,” said Thorne upon introducing himself. “Well that’s just great because we’ve both got great futures behind us,” was Daly’s riposte.

It’s well documented that both men liked to have more than the odd flutter. Daly’s net gambling losses from 1991-2007 totalled about $55 million.

He recalled a night gambling in Vegas with Greg Norman’s pal Australian media mogul Kerry Packer.

“I was doing well and cashed out for $186,000 that night but Kerry was in the hole for $8.2 million. Holy sh*t. Greg turned to me, winked and said “come back tomorrow night”. After an hour Kerry was winning so much, he had tipped the croupier $2.8 million dollars and when he finally went to the cage the casino owed him $52 million. He closed them down that night.”

Long John rounded off the evening with an impromptu rendering of his own song “I Hit it Hard”. A musician of some note with a collection of over 80 guitars, he said: “I lived in Memphis for 19 years and along with winning the Open my goal in life was to meet BB King and I would go into the studio he worked in every Tuesday on the way to the airport to fly to tournaments in the hope I might catch him.” He finally did and one of BB’s autographed guitars has pride of place in his music room at his home in Arkansas. The Red Rose county may have gone home with the spoils but the real winner on the day was children’s hospice Martin House. “It’s been nice to make some sweet music today for the folks at Martin House. God bless them,” said Daly.

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