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On This Date in Sports July 23, 1995: Daly Wins The Open

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John Daly stuns the world again, winning the Open Championship at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrew’s in Scotland. Daly needed a playoff to win his second career major, beating Constantino Rocca of Italy in a four-hole tiebreaker by shooting one under par. Constantino Rocca had forced the playoff by nailing a clutch 65-foot uphill putt to finish tied with Daly with a six under par 282 for the tournament. Meanwhile, Rocca was done in by a triple bogey on the 17th hole.

John Daly was the true everyman golfer. In a sport where most players seemed to come from wealth, Daly was a blue color, hard-drinking, hard-swinging golfer that tried to hit the ball as far as possible while often smoking on the course. Usually, he was regarded by the elite as a Redneck on the course. In 1991, Daly first put his name on the map by winning the PGA Championship at the Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana. He was making his third appearance in a major and only got a chance to play as an alternate because several players withdrew at the last minute, including Nick Price, whose wife had given birth to his first child. John Daly arrived in Carmel, hired a caddy, and went out with the slogan “Grip it and Rip It.” That gunner mentality helped bring Daly a legion of fans as he wrote the ultimate Cinderella Story.

After winning the PGA Championship, John Daly developed a cult-like fan base. However, success did not follow as he won just two tournaments over the next four years while being a non-factor at the majors. In 1994 Daly appeared to hit rock bottom as he was suspended for walking off the course during tournament play. He later entered rehab to deal with his alcoholism. When he returned late in the season, John Daly looked better than ever, winning the Bell South Classic.

Not much was expected out of John Daly as he took on the Old Course at St. Andrew’s, regarded as the birthplace of golf. However, he got off to a strong start shooting a five-under-par 67 to hold a share of the lead at the end of the first round. Daly remained atop the leaderboard after the second round, with a solid 71, to hold a share of the lead at -6 at the midway point of the Open Championship. Saturday was not the best round for John Daly, who struggled to a record a 73 and sat at five under par, four strokes behind leader Michael Campbell. On Sunday, while the top of the leaderboard struggled, John Daly was steady, posting a 71 to finish with a six under par 282. With the clubhouse lead, Daly appeared to have the tournament won as Campbell failed to make a birdie putt on the final hole. However, Constantino Rocca, who began the day two strokes back at seven under par, nailed one of the clutch birdie shots of all time on the tournament's final hole. A 65-foot uphill par putt seemed to roll forever before falling in the hole. 

With mere moments to refocus before the four-hole tiebreaker began, Daly was steady parring the first hole while Rocca coming off his clutch putt, carded a bogey. John Daly would extend his lead to two strokes with a birdie on the second playoff hole. Daly would shoot par on the final two holes, the 17th, and 18th, while Rocca unraveled, shooting a triple bogey on the third playoff hole to all but seal his fate. Constantino Rocca would again get a birdie on the final playoff hole to master the 18th green. However, John Daly got to hold the Claret Jug as he was four strokes better in the tiebreaker.

Despite a second major championship giving John Daly some legitimacy, his struggle with the bottle continued. He would only win one more tour event, capturing the Buick Invitational in 2004. Daly would also spend time on the European Tour, winning three times. John Daly never again made a serious run in the majors but always remained a fan favorite.