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How John Daly can be good for PGA Tour Champions -- and vice versa

It remains to be seen how well he'll play, but there's little doubt that John Daly will bring color to the PGA Tour Champions. Bradley Rex/Icon Sportswire

Descriptions of John Daly might best be made with numbers -- big numbers. And we're not just talking about the numerous double-digit scores posted on holes over the year.

Enormous drives are what made Daly a golf cult figure, his grip-and-rip style seeing him routinely knock the ball 300-plus yards off the tee before that was considered routine. For the first 10 years of his career, Daly led the PGA Tour in driving distance, no small feat.

But as he has turned 50 last week, many of the numbers associated with Big John were not typically so flattering, such as the numerous warnings, fines and suspensions that have littered his path over the years.

Seven times the PGA Tour ordered him to undergo counseling or enter alcohol rehab, according to a personnel file that was only made public because of a lawsuit.

Eleven times he was cited for conduct "unbecoming a professional," 21 times for "failure to give best effort." The missed cuts and withdrawals were only outdone by the sponsor exemptions that tournaments continued to give him, his drawing power still that great.

Four wives, nine lives -- the only thing left for Daly is another second chance at golf, and it comes in the form of senior golf.

Daly, who turned 50 on April 28, makes his PGA Tour Champions debut Friday at the Insperity Invitational near Houston. Tournaments with 54 holes and carts ought to suit him.

"I'm excited about it," Daly said during a recent conference call. "My golf game hasn't been that great, but I have been working really hard lately, and I'm excited to just get a schedule. It is a new chapter."

Daly hasn't had a schedule for years because he's not been an exempt player for years. You have to go back to 2006 to find a time when Daly was fully exempt on the PGA Tour. He won the last of his five PGA Tour events at the 2004 Buick Invitational, and his last brush with glory was a playoff loss to Tiger Woods at the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship -- after which he said he gambled away most of the $700,000 he earned for his runner-up finish.

That year, Daly won more than $1.7 million and ranked 49th on the money list -- and he hasn't come close since.

In the 10 years since, Daly has never sniffed the top-125 in either money or FedEx Cup points, only twice making as many as 10 cuts in a season. He's had just three top-10 finishes during that time.

Because tournaments routinely gave him sponsor exemptions, Daly never felt the need to try in securing playing privileges by heading to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Despite poor results, Daly kept racking up those sponsor invites.

And it all goes back to the most unlikely of victories 25 years ago at Crooked Stick Golf Club outside of Indianapolis. Then a 25-year-old rookie, Daly was not qualified for the PGA Championship. At one point, he was the ninth alternate. But players kept dropping out, and Daly kept moving up the list. When Nick Price withdrew on the eve of the championship for his son's impending birth, Daly -- who had driven all night from Arkansas -- teed it up using Price's caddie.

Daly had never seen the course, but he opened with a 69 and became a rock star overnight, hitting drivers on nearly every hole and impressing with his short-game skills. He went on to win the tournament, and the rest was hysteria.

With those long-ball skills also came a deft short-game touch. Daly won tournaments in two of the next three years and then was an unlikely major champion again in 1995 at The Open at St. Andrews. After Italy's Costantino Rocca made an improbable birdie putt on the last hole to tie him, Daly dispatched the Italian in a four-hole aggregate playoff.

There are Hall of Famers who never won two major championships, but Daly has a Wanamaker Trophy and a Claret Jug -- along with lifetime exemptions into the tournaments at which he earned them.

He's just as well known, however, for antics such as making an 18 on a hole at Bay Hill (one of 17 times he's scored double digits on a PGA Tour hole); quitting events (including at the 2011 Australian Open, where he kept hitting in a water hazard on the 11th hole of the second round until he had no more balls); and setting up shop outside the gates of Augusta National (where he was again this year, just down the street, hawking merchandise and autographs).

And yet, there is no doubt Daly has appeal. That's why his eligibility for senior golf is being viewed with anticipation. The PGA Tour Champions -- previously known as the Champions Tour -- could use the boost Daly will bring, as many of the game's stars have bypassed the circuit or played limited schedules when eligible. Vijay Singh and Davis Love III are the most recent examples. Daly has twice taken part in conference calls to hype his next chapter.

That is the thing about Daly: He has a soft, generous side that is often overshadowed by all the dubious decisions. He often partakes in clinics and makes himself available for tournaments' charities. It is often forgotten, but during that 1991 PGA Championship, a spectator was struck by lightning and killed; Daly set up a college fund for the victim's two daughters by donating $30,000 of his winnings. Nobody knew that story for nearly 15 years.

Now it's time to play again. Daly conceded recently that he could use the money, as his golf course income over the past decade has been minimal (in his autobiography he said he had lost north of $50 million gambling).

And he will get plenty of chances. Daly will get into some tournaments by virtue of his standing on the career money list. Short of that, during his first two years, his five victories will help him gain spots. And if not, there are always sponsor exemptions, which he won't have to work hard to receive.

That's because fans love him, through good and bad.

"I always feed off the fans," he said. "I've been very fortunate. When I'm playing good, they are backing me. When I'm not doing so good, they are still for me and it helps. It helps having the home-field advantage. There's nothing greater than getting it going and having the fans getting loud and crazy. That's just the way I like them. And I'm hoping to see some of that and get my golf game in order.

"I have been working really hard, looking forward to getting my game in shape and hopefully don't embarrass myself out there."

Daly has done enough of that over the years. Now comes the ultimate mulligan, a chance to be a rookie again and start over.