BIRTHDAY BOY: The controversial John Daly is about to join golf’s Champion’s Tour.
BIRTHDAY BOY: The controversial John Daly is about to join golf’s Champion’s Tour. David Cannon

Wild Thing John Daly still kicking at 50

THE Champions Tour is about to get the shock of its life.

John Daly has turned 50, and plans to play in next week's Insperity Invitational at Woodlands Country Club outside Houston, alongside some of the game's elder statesmen including Tom Watson, Colin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer and Australia's Peter Senior.

Plenty of people were confident 'The Wild Thing' wouldn't reach the milestone, including, if you believe Daly himself, former PGA Tour player Fuzzy Zoeller.

The dual major winner told USA TODAY Sports Zoeller owed him $US150,000 from a bet they had at the Masters many years ago that Daly wouldn't reach 50.

"I think it was Tuesday morning and we played nine holes and went to T-Bonz (a restaurant) and had some lunch," Daly recalled.

"Next thing I know, we were in the same clothes playing Wednesday at 7:30 in the morning at the par-3 tournament. We stayed through the whole nine (holes), drinking, having a good time and eating."

That's been pretty much par for the course for Daly, who announced his arrival on the Tour after winning the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in the most unlikely of circumstances.

At 25, Daly had been unable to establish himself as a regular at the top level, eking out just enough money to keep him in food and beer - something he had become accustomed to since he was eight.

He was the ninth alternate for the PGA Championship, but as players starting dropping out he took a punt, drove halfway across the country and arrived in Carmel, Indiana to find he was in the field.

He opened with an equal-course-record 66 and went on to win by three strokes, his booming drives and take-no-prisoners style immediately elevating him to cult hero status.

Unable to shake the feeling he didn't belong, and still wrapped in the cocoon of his alcohol addiction, it was only 12 months later he drove his Mercedes up to the edge of a cliff with every intention of keeping going.

He didn't, a phone conversation with a friend convincing him a visit to a rehab clinic was a better option.

Sober for the next five years, Daly enjoyed fame and fortune, his biggest victory coming in the 1995 British Open at St Andrews.

Two years on, by which time he was on the third of his four marriages, he fell off the wagon and headed back to rehab.

His life since then has resembled a train wreck.

He wrote in 2006 he had gambled away somewhere north of $50 million, and almost drunk himself to death.

He still drinks - usually his own brand of John Daly vodka - still smokes like a train, still gambles (he's down to the $25 slot machines), and is about to marry for the fifth time.

The Champions Tour will never have seen anything like it.

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