John Daly said he felt “obligated” to play in the PGA Championship this week as a past champion, despite the controversy that has surrounded him being permitted to use a cart at Bethpage Black.
“Trust me, I hate riding in the cart,” Daly said on Wednesday after practicing on the front nine. “If I could walk, I’d do it. I could probably walk four holes and I’m done, because this [arthritic right knee] swells up so bad.”
Why was it important to him to enter, using his lifetime exemption as a past PGA winner, in 1991?
“Being a past major winner like this, I feel obligated,” he said. “I don’t know why, I just do. But it got me started in my career and it’s very special to me, and I just feel like I need to play. Try to, anyway.”
Daly, 53, said the course played “long. It’s really long.” But he said using a cart will not help him as much as many assume.
“Actually, it’s a big disadvantage this week,” he said. “Trying to map it out, trying to figure out where I can go, where I can’t go.”
On Tuesday, Tiger Woods was asked about Daly using a cart and said, “I walked with a broken leg [in the 2008 U.S. Open], so . . . “
Daly later told USA Today that he wished Woods had “all the facts” about his knee condition before weighing in. “Might have been a different comment,” Daly said.
What kind of shape is his game in? “It’s so-so,” he said while walking into the clubhouse. “It’s not great. But you never know. Give it a shot and see what happens, right?”
Daly played the front nine with Kelly Kraft, who is in the field as a replacement for 2017 PGA champion Justin Thomas.
During his practice round, fans repeatedly surrounded his cart and he obliged everyone who asked with autographs, and posed for many photos.
He wore a short-sleeve windbreaker, floral print shorts, no socks, no hat and sunglasses. He walked to and from his cart with a limp, smoking cigarettes.
He was a definite crowd pleaser, with a gallery of a few hundred people at a part of the course that was not well populated. In his cart was a very large McDonald's cup with a straw.
Fans shouted, "Let's Go John!" and "Good Luck John" and "JD, you're the man!" There was a big cheer when he chipped in from behind the sixth green. No one razzed him when he skulled a hybrid out of a bunker on No. 5.
On No. 8, someone offered him a tee. "I've got plenty of tees," Daly said. "I need a golf game."