John Daly vs. Loren Roberts




Golf is a sport, but it's also a business that needs fans to survive. Who has the biggest gallery, without fail, every time he plays? John Daly. The fans love him, and the PGA loves fans. It's a win-win, even when he's losing.

The guy's got talent. (He's won two majors, for Pete's sake.) It's unfortunate he lacks the focus needed to channel that talent into a scorecard that reflects it, but that's why he's so loved. People identify with flawed heroes. He drinks, smokes, eats, gambles, and gets married and divorced too much. But how refreshing in today's culture of celebrity denials to have one lone gun look you in the eye, take a drag off the ever-present Marlboro, and say, "Yeah, I did that."

Though people think they know John, one thing they probably don't know is how generous the guy is. I used to work for Make-A-Wish, one of John's favorite charities, and have seen him break down in tears holding a sick child. I've watched him literally give a kid the shirt off his back. I've seen him dole out cash left and right to grant wishes, and heard him order box after box of Oakley sunglasses for a sick little boy who admired his. His charity tournaments raise more than half a million dollars each year. He has a big heart to go along with his big mistakes, and that makes him okay in my book.

No doubt, John sullies the highbrow image of the PGA. His bad habits might affect his game, but never anyone else's. He doesn't disrupt play (unless you consider hordes of fans distracting), and he doesn't criticize others, a courtesy that isn't always extended to him.

At the end of the day, you've got to give it to John Daly: He's never, ever dull.

Granted, the past year has been one of Daly's worst (he brought in a meager $192,000. I've seen him lose more in an hour in Tunica.) But so what? The farther down he is, the more exhilarating his inevitable comeback. I'm rooting for ya, buddy.

— Mary Helen Tibbs

The Boss of the Moss. If there's a better nickname in the world of golf — sorry, Golden Bear — I haven't heard it. There are players on the PGA Tour who would give up the sponsorship on their hat for a moniker derived from their prowess on the putting green. But it's Loren Roberts — the pride of Germantown — who will carry this brand into posterity.

Having earned his PGA Tour card in 1980, Roberts has exuded class and dignity for more than a quarter century as a professional. He belongs in that dubious conversation about the best golfer never to have won a major. But how close Roberts came. In two years (1994 and 2000) he finished in the top 10 in three of his sport's four most prestigious tournaments. He lost to Ernie Els in a playoff at the 1994 U.S. Open and finished third at the 2000 Masters. Roberts played for the U.S. in the 1995 Ryder Cup (going a stellar 3-1) and, with eight Tour victories under his belt, has earned a cool $15 million doing what most of us pay to do.

Upon turning 50 in 2005, Roberts joined the Champions Tour and finally broke through with a major victory among senior competition, winning the 2005 Tradition and the 2006 Senior British Open. In 2006, he opened the season with three straight wins.

Somehow, his achievements on the links merely accentuate his efforts at giving back to the Mid-South community. Example? Since 1995, the Loren Roberts Celebrity Pro-Am has raised more than $1 million for Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center.

As good as Roberts has been for Memphis, the local PGA stop hasn't been all that good to Roberts. In 23 years of playing his home tournament, the best he finished was 5th. But he kept showing up, with two separate stretches of 10 straight Memphis appearances. Precisely what you'd expect from our version of the Boss. It's men like Loren Roberts who solidify golf's standing in the world of sports as the Gentleman's Game.

— Frank Murtaugh

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