John Daly will not play in the Open at Royal Portrush after all, announcing his withdrawl yesterday three days after the R&A rejected his request to use a golf cart during the championship.
The 1995 Open champion was permitted to use a buggy at the PGA Championship in May to allow him to that event, which he won in 1991. Now 53, Daly has osteoarthritis in his knee which limits his mobility.
The R&A took time to consider his request before ultimately rejecting it at the weekend. Their statement made reference to walking being “an integral part of the championship and central to the tradition of links golf.”
Bizarrely, Daly then reportedly contracted an abdominal infection which he attributed to being bitten by a spider whilst on a family holiday in England, and which required him to being rushed to hospital when he returned home to the United States.
It’s not know whether his recovery from that incident or the ongoing mobility issues have prompted his decision to withdraw from the Open. In the aftermath of the R&A’s statement at the weekend, he had stated his intention was to play.
Daly’s condition is treatable, but would require surgery and he has opted not to go in that direction.
He’s made just six cuts in his last 19 Open appearances, not playing at the weekend in his last four.
The R&A clearly didn’t want to set a considerable precedent by acquiescing to Daly’s request, even if he is one of the former champions to whom they are usually so deferential.
Scores of former champions have hirpled around Open venues until their playing exemptions ran out at age 60 without the aid of outside agencies. Tom Watson played until age 66 with a special exemption (and a hip replacement) but never requested any assistance.
Whether Daly helped his own case at the PGA by driving around Bethpage Black in May with a McDonald’s carton in the cup carrier is actually besides the point. The appearance the R&A wanted to avoid was that of a player being given an obvious advantage to the rest of the field, no matter his deportment.
The PGA of America made their decision, and one assumes that they’ll receive many more requests as a result. The R&A’s decision nips this whole thing in the bud as far as the Open is concerned, and quite rightly.
Daly’s place in next week’s field at Royal Portrush is taken by the next eligible player on the world rankings, No 85 Kevin Streelman of the USA.