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NAPA

When the final threesome teed off on the back nine of the Safeway Open in Napa on Saturday, two of the golfers looked as though they had suited up in the same wardrobe department. Ted Potter Jr., 33, and Martin Piller, 31, both wore baseball caps, red golf shirts, khaki or gray slacks and white shoes.

Then there was the third member of the party. John Daly, icon of both PGA and TMZ, had no cap to cover his flaxen hair. His shoes were blue, and his pants were printed with outrageously colorful peacock feathers. His blue shirt read ROCK BOTTOM GOLF on the left sleeve and TRUMP on the right.

At 53, far removed from his glory days on the tour, Daly still stands out. Few of the other golfers here have bellies that hang prodigiously over their white, disco-era belts. And of course there are the cigarettes. Every other hole, more or less, Daly lit a Marlboro at the tees or while walking down the fairway. On 12, he drove a ball into the sand, then bent down to pick up a lit cig as he left the tee box.

Frequently, Daly held a white tee in his fingers while he waited for Piller or Potter to drive. (Neither of those two did the same.) I wondered if the tees were cigarette surrogates for someone who reportedly cut down to two packs a day after suffering a collapsed lung in 2015.

Fans love Daly for his individuality, as they always have. They call to him constantly from the gallery. They yell “I love you, John!” and “Let’s go, Johnnie!” and “Show us your (breasts)!” and “My wife was happy to meet you at Frida’s, baby!”

Frida’s is a Mexican restaurant, and not a fancy one, here in Napa.

As Daly walked from the 12th green to the 13th tee on the North Course at Silverado Resort & Spa, a young, bearded guy caught up and asked, “John, can I get a selfie with you?”

Daly ignored him, still moving, eyes forward.

“Please?” the fan continued. “I’ve been known as Little John Daly my whole life. It would mean more to me than you would know.”

Still Daly ignored him.

The man gave it one more try: “Is that a no go?”

“Hurry,” Daly said, and he paused his stride and smiled for an instant while the guy snapped a quick shot with his phone.

A little while later, I pulled the fan aside to ask him about the moment. Todd Warner is a 31-year-old from Placerville. He did not come to the Open solely to track down John Daly, but that was certainly one of the attractions for him.

Warner was a good golfer, a 3-handicap coming out of high school.

He was blond and hefty — 5 feet 10 inches, 260 pounds, he said, though he is nowhere near that weight now — and could drive the ball long, so “Little John Daly” it was. I asked Warner what drew him to Daly as a personality.

“His persistence and his uniqueness, you know what I mean?” he said. “He was always seen as somebody in public who wasn’t your typical golfer, and had these outlandish things. But he always pushed through everything I saw, and not only that, he represented a population of people that are underrepresented in golf. … He was a leader in terms of going through struggles that typical people can relate to on the golf course as well.”

Ah, the outlandish things. No golfer ever accumulated more of them than Daly.

In 2010, the Florida Times-Union got hold of his PGA Tour disciplinary file, which entered the public record when he sued the paper’s publisher for libel. The file was 456 pages long. The tour placed Daly on probation six times, ordered him to attend counseling or rehab seven times, cited him for conduct unbecoming a professional 11 times and fined him a total of almost $100,000.

Daly was charged with assaulting his wife in 1992. He fought with a 62-year-old man at the World Series of Golf in 1994, trashed a hotel room during The Players Championship in 1997 and possibly passed out at a Hooters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 2007.

Last December, on the “Dan Le Batard Show,” he told about the time he won $55,000 at a casino and threw the cash out of the window of his car while arguing with his then-wife on the drive home.

Like Donald J. Trump, who tweeted congratulations to Daly when the latter scored his first PGA Tour Champions victory at the Insperity Invitational in May, the golfer’s transgressions don’t seem to turn off his supporters. In fact, they lap it up.

Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson have their admirers, too. But Daly’s are a little different.

“It’s that genre. It doesn’t matter what age,” his fifth wife and sometime caddy, Anna Cladakis, told me. “It’s the blue-collar, laid-back, fun, party-type guy. It was the young ones to the middle-aged, college to the old ones. The guys he played (with), we’re talking 20 years’ difference in age. John still reels ’em in.”

She was right.

In terms of fan interaction, Daly might as well have been playing by himself on Saturday. Potter and Piller hardly registered.

It isn’t just encouragement the people shout at Daly. It’s — well, anything, really.

When he is trudging down a fairway, the filters disappear. Normally bland golf enthusiasts tell him they want to party with him or share a smoke with him. They’re sort of rooting for him to act up. At the 14th tee, a young guy holding a Miller Lite saw Daly with a tumbler of something on the rocks and asked his friend excitedly, “Is he drinking?” Alas, it was Diet Coke. Daly goes through a lot of those on the course.

“Everybody wants to drink beer with me,” Daly said after he shot a 1-under par 71 on Saturday. “I think it’s great. Even a good-looking woman said she wanted to drink beer with me. That’s pretty cool.”

He didn’t interact a ton with the fans on this day, but he called their support “awesome.”

Daly, playing here on a sponsor’s exemption, was just OK on Saturday. He had barely made the cut a day earlier by birdying his final hole. It was the first time he had survived to play the third round in a PGA event since he tied for 10th at the Puerto Rico Open in March of 2015. Twelve times since then, Daly had been eliminated after two rounds.

Known for the longest drives in golf back when he was winning two majors in the early to mid-1990s, Daly did not drive all that accurately Saturday; a lot of his balls hooked left, and several landed in bunkers. But he made some nice recoveries. Daly made all of his shorter putts in Round 3, but didn’t make any long ones that could have elevated him on the leaderboard.

“I just didn’t hit it really good,” he said. “Play was really slow. None of us seemed like we could get in a rhythm.”

Daly enters Sunday’s final round at 2 under, tied for 63rd.

But he’s having a lot of fun. Thursday night, after Round 1, Daly took the stage with musician Gavin DeGraw during a concert here at the resort, and helped belt out a rendition of “I Won’t Back Down” in tribute to its creator, Tom Petty, who died Monday.

Cladakis said he’s in a really good place in his life.

“Especially playing on the Champions Tour, and getting an invite to the PGA,” she said. “I know in his heart he knows he can still compete with these guys. Honestly, between you and I, I think he’s hitting his peak.”

And, as ever, he won’t back down.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.