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SportsColumnistsMark Herrmann

Why John Daly's golf cart exemption for PGA Championship at Bethpage Black seems off course

The 1991 PGA Championship winner will travel Bethpage Black in a golf cart this weekend with an exemption for his arthritic knee, the first such exemption since Casey Martin in 2012, and Tiger Woods is among those not happy about it.

John Daly drives in his cart after hitting

John Daly drives in his cart after hitting a tee shot on the 10th hole during the first round of the Father Son Challenge golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., on Dec. 15, 2018 Photo Credit: AP/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Some things just shouldn’t be seen. Ketchup on hot dogs, white pants before Memorial Day, black socks with sandals and golf carts on the Black Course.

The latter one really rankles people who believe that a large part of Bethpage Black’s challenge is making it through all 18 holes on foot. As all Long Island public course golfers know, carts are never allowed on the Black.

Except this one week, for one golfer. John Daly, 53, has been granted permission to ride rather than walk during the PGA Championship under terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is on par, legally, but it doesn’t sit well with everyone in the game, particularly the most notable player.

“As far as J.D. taking a cart,” Tiger Woods said during his Tuesday news conference, “well, I walked with a broken leg, so…”

Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open - his last major title before the Masters last month - with what was later diagnosed as two stress fractures and a torn anterior cruciate ligament. And who knows how many majors he would have won had he been allowed to relax his back in an E-Z Go.

Daly is not in any shape to win the PGA this week or anything else involving golfers in their primes. He is here on a lifetime exemption for winning the 1991 PGA. He does have every right to be here and he had every right to apply for the special consideration based on an arthritic knee. It doesn’t mean Woods and the rest of us have to like it.

The PGA of America was in a no-win position. Had it fought Daly in court, it would have come off as the bad guy, win or lose.

“We have a clause for ADA purposes in that any player who has an ADA concern or issue is allowed to apply and give the reasons for the exemption that he or she may want to apply for,” said Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer. “In this case, John went through the process…We have a committee that meets, which includes a medical expert, and they review the information. And it was agreed that it justified the use of the golf cart for the championship.”

Tournament officials will supply an uncovered cart and will give him ground rules, Haigh said, adding, “Obviously, there are some places on this golf course where you can’t get a golf cart to.”

Daly, who registered Tuesday but did not play a practice round, will be the first to use a cart in a major championship since Casey Martin, Woods’ college teammate at Stanford, in the 2012 U.S. Open. Martin has a birth defect in his right leg and won the right to ride on the PGA Tour, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He has come out in support of Daly, which is enough to give any of us pause.

But it still just seems odd. Martin was looking to make a living, Daly is looking to have a fun weekend. Traipsing all those yards, crossing Round Swamp Road, surmounting the hills all add to the difficulty of making a good score here. “It’s a good hike, but it’s easier to walk it when you’re having fun and competing at a high level,” said Harold Varner III after clocking 3.2 miles on the front nine Tuesday.

This course has no cart paths for a reason. “The Black is very, very hilly. There are some unfriendly spots out there,” said Dave Catalano, the former longtime park director and now a member of the PGA Championship executive committee. “My personal perspective is that the asphalt and the cart traffic would have wrecked the beauty of the golf course.”

Seth Waugh, the PGA’s chief executive officer, made a point of saying he was “not trying to make a statement about John,” but added of the Black, “it’s a long walk and a beautiful walk.”

The familiar old saying goes, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Well, nothing spoils a good walk more than a golf cart.

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