The player, a friend of John Daly’s, stood behind the 18th green of the TPC-Sawgrass Stadium Course shaking his head. The story of Daly’s frightening relapse with alcoholism was just coming into view. This was real bad.
“This,” the player said, “is the end of John Daly the golfer.”
But could it really be that bad?
Daly’s latest “incident” last weekend was worse than you may think.
When Daly drank himself into a stupor at a Jacksonville Beach tavern, trashed his hotel room, argued with his wife loudly enough to draw police attention, went to the hospital with chest pains, withdrew from The Players Championship citing a sore hip then announced two days later he would enter the Betty Ford Clinic, he did more than make a public spectacle of himself.
He embarrassed the PGA Tour during its flagship event, a $3.5 million extravaganza that the tour would like to be considered a major championship.
In terms of media coverage, the Daly story dwarfed the story of Steve Elkington’s seven-shot victory.
On Monday, some papers played the Daly story on the front page of the sports section, with Steve Elkington’s seven-shot victory inside.
Though Daly’s agent, John Mascatello, says otherwise, it appears Daly did not enter the Betty Ford program by choice. It’s believed commissioner Tim Finchem threatened Daly with suspension. Fuzzy Zoeller, Daly’s best friend on tour, said the tour “made” Daly get help.
The saddest part of this is you could see it coming, as sober, returned to the tour at the Honda Classic after a three-month suspension but insisted he wouldn’t attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because “they’re too negative.”
Last fall he admitted he started drinking socially again. You knew what was next. Why didn’t anybody stop the train wreck?
Mascatello told the Associated Press that Daly wanted to enter rehab two months ago but didn’t because he “wanted to get through The Masters” next week.
There is no timetable for Daly’s release from the Betty Ford facility in Rancho Mirage, Calif. But he can forget about The Masters. This suspension (that’s what it is, no matter how it is phrased) almost certainly will be longer than three months.
When will he return to the tour? Mascatello told the Associated Press a “probable timetable” would be the Kemper Open the first weekend of June, just before the U.S. Open.
But more likely, Daly will return when Finchem is convinced he is cured. Maybe that means six months. Maybe it means never.
Daly’s vices - whether alcohol, gambling, cigarettes, chocolate muffins or firing at pins - always have been done in excess. But this time he went too far.
Is this the end of John Daly the golfer? There’s only one person who can answer that. And right now, he needs to worry about saving John Daly the person.
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