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John Daly’s Long Goodbye

No matter how many ugly demons dance in his head, no matter how much you really want this to be the last time he does something this egregious and offensive, there comes a time for John Daly to accept responsibility for his behavior – and to pay some consequences.

Daly, golf’s wickedly troubled stepchild, pumped seven balls in the water at the 11th hole in the first round of the Emirates Australian Open. He called it a tournament and packed it in, claiming he had been cleaned out of ammo. He was out of balls, all right, in more ways than one.

Until now, time has been Daly’s friend, giving him more chances than anyone deserved to finally set right his unbalanced world and become an adult. All those opportunities failed miserably. After walking off the course – for the second time in six weeks – an entire continent has kicked Daly out for good. And the five other continents that play professional golf need to pay attention.

For the past four years, Daly has been scratching out a living in golf, depending on sponsor’s exemptions because he hasn’t played well enough to earn his playing privileges on any tour through his own merit. Tournament officials have refused to stand up and do the right thing and lock Daly out of their events. Some of them still believe he moves the needle and brings fans through the gates.

That might have been true in years past, but the time is long past due for Daly’s career to be over. He’s 45, non-competitive and too damn unpredictable. He’s a ticking bomb and you never know when he’s going to blow.

The tired old rationale was that the common man identifies with Daly and his struggles. That’s not true anymore, either. The few stragglers who are still in Daly’s camp do so because he makes everybody else look good by comparison. In the past couple of years, he draws more pity than praise.

In Australia, he hit a wrong ball in a bunker at the seventh hole, took a two-shot penalty and slap-shotted it around the green, winding up with a triple-bogey seven. Four holes later, he tried to go for the green in two and drowned it seven times. He would have been hitting his 16th shot, had he chosen to continue.

He walked in with his young son and girlfriend in tow on international television. His girlfriend, Anna Cladakis, slapped at a photographer. What will his son, John Patrick, remember from his trip to Australia?

Maybe Daly had a flashback, coming up a couple of letters short and thought he was in Austria again. Six weeks ago at the Austrian GolfOpen, he was chopping it around in the second round and had a run-in with a European Tour rules official over a disputed drop from a television tower. He pitched a wedge into the lake, stormed in without finishing and dumped his fans and tournament officials in the process.

“It’s very disappointing for the tournament … that he has treated the championship this way,” Trevor Herden, Golf Australia’s director of tournaments, said Thursday. “It is a bit of a habit.”

Herden said later, “We’ve seen the last of John Daly in Australia.”

He had been invited to play in the Australian PGA next week, but in light of current events, that invitation has been rescinded. Daly was kicked out of that event before it even started.

“The PGA does not need this kind of behavior tarnishing the achievements of other players and the reputation of our tournaments,” said Australian PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn. “John is not welcome at Coolum.”

He shouldn’t be welcome on the PGA Tour, either, and hopefully, tournament directors are taking notice. Until now, they have been among Daly’s biggest enablers. And there’s more than one reason to refuse Daly a sponsor’s exemption. His behavior is certainly cause enough. But the other is his performance, or lack of it.

This year, he has played in 18 PGA Tour events, making the cut only six times. In Europe, he played in eight events, making four cuts and withdrawing twice. He called it quits in the middle of the second round of the BMW PGA Championship. In 2010, he made 14 of 20 cuts on the PGA Tour but withdrew three times and made only $158,000. From 2006-09, he withdrew 14 times on the PGA Tour.

The bottom line is that not only can’t he comport himself like a professional, he simply can’t play anymore. No one could imagine what Daly would do if it weren’t for golf. However, it’s high time he find out.

His legacy will not be that of a two-time major champion with as much raw talent as anyone who has ever played the game. Instead, he will be remembered as golf’s most prolific give-up artist.

He has used every excuse imaginable and we keep on buying it, making us just as culpable. He keeps on asking for yet another chance. Beginning immediately, the answer should be, “No.”

Because no matter how much he needs golf, the other way around is simply no longer true.


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