John Daly wore white, pinstriped, Yankees-themed pants, smoked cigarettes between shots, kept a diet Coke handy and fist-bumped fans between holes.
All of that would have been fine with him on Thursday at Bethpage Black, but something even more unusual than all of the above gnawed at Daly when it was over.
For the first round of the PGA Championship, he drove a cart around a course that usually does not permit them even for amateurs, and he wished he did not have to.
“It’s very awkward,” he said. “It’s to a point where it’s almost embarrassing.”
Even so, Daly said the controversial decision to allow the cart was the only way he could fulfill what he considers an “obligation” as a past champion, having won in 1991.
“Trust me, if I could walk, I’d rather walk,” Daly said. “I’m not one that wants to ride all the time . . . It’s just something that if I didn’t, I’m not going to be able to play.”
Bethpage Black does not have designated cart paths, so Daly followed sometimes circuitous routes suggested by the PGA of America and parked in some precarious positions.
He said that with crowds thinning in late afternoon he had less trouble over his last few holes.
Daly, 53, played respectably, shooting a 5-over par 75, with eight pars in his last nine holes in a group with fellow former PGA winners Y.E. Yang and Rich Beem. But he was frustrated that he did not do better.
“I just didn’t make any putts,” he said. “I hit it OK, just couldn’t get anything to go in. I hit it better than I scored.”
Daly drove cart No. 107, complete with a handicapped parking placard on the steering wheel, a large McDonald’s cup in one cup holder and a Diet Coke in the other.
There was no roof on the vehicle, and he was not allowed to have his bag or other gear in it; his caddie carried that. He joked he was allowed his Diet Coke and cigarettes.
At times he was forced to drive through crowds of fans. As he tried to navigate pedestrian traffic between the 16th and 17th holes, many extended their fists in hopes of bumps from Daly. Many got them.
“Oh, New York fans are great, man,” he said. “Some of them, they’re going to get on you, but 99.9 [percent] were great. They’re just good fans.”
It did not hurt that his outfit was designed in part to win favor with the locals. He wore garish pants festooned with Yankees-related decorations from Loudmouth Golf, whose products he endorses.
He said he is a Cardinals fan, “but I thought it would be good to wear [the Yankees pants] here.”
It was evident watching him hobble on his arthritic right knee that it would have been impossible for him to walk the entire 18-hole course.
He said the knee “was about the size of a softball” after his round.
“It’s not really ego, it’s that I feel committed,” he said. “I feel like past champions, if we can play, no matter what it takes I think we should.”