Daly Suspended By The PGA Tour

December 30, 2008

The PGA Tour is sending Daly a message. Is he listening?

John Daly said Wednesday he has been suspended for six months by the PGA Tour for conduct that brought unwelcome publicity, including a night in a North Carolina jail to sober up.

"Is it fair that I got suspended? It's not fair in reality, but it's probably fair in perception," he told The Associated Press.

This is the second time the two-time major champion has been suspended. The 42-year-old Daly called this the lowest point of a wild 18-year career.

He has not played on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut Oct. 17 in Las Vegas. Ten days later, police in Winston-Salem, N.C., said he appeared intoxicated outside a Hooters restaurant, and he was taken to jail to sleep it off. That led to a photo of Daly in an orange jail suit with his eyes half-open.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw did not immediately return a phone call. Asked a month ago whether Daly had been suspended, Votaw said the tour does not discuss disciplinary action involving any player.

Daly decided to go public with the suspension "to be fair to my fans and tournament organizers" during the first three months of the season when he typically plays. His last victory was the Buick Invitational in 2004, and Daly said his five-year exemption as a past champion runs out this year.

He said he would continue playing the European tour, starting with a three-week swing in the United Arab Emirates.

"This is the lowest I've ever been," Daly said. "There's always light with me. Right now, my home tour is probably Europe. And I love the European tour. I always have. But my home is the United States. That's where I would rather play."

Daly isn't even sure when the suspension began, but he hopes it ends in May. He said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem sent a letter to his agent, Bud Martin, who passed along the news.

"Tim and his staff have to do what they do," Daly said. "Truly and honestly, I wish Tim would get to know the facts better before he makes a decision. I would love to sit down and have a nice talk with him, tell him what really happened. But perception is reality in the world, and sometimes they have to do what they have to do."

Daly's career is highlighted by victories in the PGA Championship as the ninth alternate and the British Open at St. Andrews. But it has been dragged down by two trips to alcohol rehab, gambling losses and other off-course episodes that have made him an attraction beyond his prodigious length off the tee.

He was suspended in 1993 for picking up his ball during the middle of a round in an unofficial tournament at Kapalua.

Daly also agreed to sit out the final five months of the 1994 season after scuffling with a 62-year-old man at Firestone. On another occasion, the tour encouraged Daly to enter alcohol rehab after trashing his hotel room at The Players Championship in 1997.

Daly has played four times since the PGA Tour suspended him, tying for 17th in the Hong Kong Open and missing the cut at all three tournaments he played in Australia. In the Australian Open, he lost his patience with a fan who put a camera in his face during the round, smashing the camera against a tree.

Asked why he was suspended, Daly pointed to four incidents during the year. After a rain delay at Innisbrook during the Florida swing, he emerged from a Hooters hospitality tent with Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden as his caddie for the final seven holes of the round, prompting a split with swing coach Butch Harmon.

While promoting a golf course in Missouri, Daly did a regional television interview wearing only blue jeans -- no shirt, no shoes -- while showing how to play one of the holes. Then at the Buick Open, during a pro-am that featured Kid Rock in overalls, Daly revved up the fans by hitting one drive off the top of a beer can.

He drew the most attention from the night in jail. Daly told the AP that his friends called police when they feared he had passed out, unaware he sleeps with his eyes open when he's had too much to drink. Daly was not charged, rather put in jail under a state law called "Assistance to Intoxicated Persons." But his jail photo was an Internet sensation.

"The picture didn't help," Daly said. "People think I got arrested when I didn't get arrested. It is what it is. I've got to deal with it and go on. Whatever reason the tour has, maybe a positive will come out of this."

Daly has not had full status on the PGA Tour the last two years. He finished No. 232 on the money list this year with $56,017 in 17 events, missing the cut 10 times and withdrawing twice.

The publicity cost him his endorsements. Daly said his only deals are with Focus Golf Systems, which signed a 15-year agreement in 2006 to sell his golf clubs and apparel in Wal-Mart stores; and Fly Emirates, part of a deal that will pay his travel expenses when he plays the Abu Dhabi Championship, Qatar Masters and Dubai Desert Classic later this month.