John Daly denied Bob Hope exemption; calls it a 'slap in the face'

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — John Daly already can count on playing at least three PGA Tour events during the first two months of the season, quite a change from where he was a year ago.

Daly was in the early stages of a six-month suspension for conduct unbecoming a professional when the 2009 season started, and his future in golf was limited to tournaments in Australia and on the European Tour.

He will start at the Sony Open next week in Honolulu. He said he also received an exemption to the San Diego Open, and that he was in the 156-man field at Pebble Beach.

Even so, he was stunned that he did not receive an exemption to the Bob Hope Classic. The tournament gave its unrestricted spots to Rickie Fowler, Rocco Mediate, Jamie Lovemark and David Duval, who shot 59 in the final round of his 1999 victory. Another unrestricted exemption went to Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer.

"That was kind of a shocker they didn't give me one," Daly said Monday evening. "I felt like I brought a lot of celebrity friends to that tournament. That was kind of a slap in the face. I supported that tournament for all those years. My feelings were hurt there."

Daly didn't mind that Palmer's grandson received one because "those are Palmer's courses" and the King was so connected to the Hope. He is hopeful of getting spots to Riviera and Phoenix, although he realizes tournaments have plenty of choices.

"It's tough," he said. "This is a year I really need favors from a lot of tournaments. I need some loving this year. That's why I used to do all this stuff for the tournaments. It was always in my mind that I might need some help someday."

Daly said his Florida swing already includes a start at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook, where two years ago he was criticized for using former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden as a caddie for a few holes after a rain delay.

The two-time major champion has kept busy the last week. He went from watching Arkansas beat East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl to a seat in Jerry Jones' box when the Dallas Cowboys beat Philadelphia.

On his westward journey, he stopped by Ping to get fitted for some new irons, although a deal is not imminent and Daly said he is not in a hurry. He last played Ping when he won the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick.

Looking back, Daly said the suspension had its benefits. The time off led him to get lap-band surgery, and he has lost 115 pounds over the last nine months.

SPECIAL GUEST: During his whirlwind travels in December, when Y.E. Yang found time for a round of golf that he won't soon forget. Making good on a pledge a week after winning the PGA Championship, he played with former President George W. Bush.

Yang met Bush in August during a trip to the TaylorMade facility in Carlsbad, Calif., and since they live relatively close to each other in Dallas, they arranged to play.

The round took place at Brook Hollow, and it turns out Bush is very much like his father when it comes to pace of play.

"Very fast," Yang said. "We had a fivesome and played in three hours."

Yang said Bush played off about a 12 handicap and said he shot 85.

"He was a nice guy, very fun to play with," Yang said.

GWAA AWARDS: Tom Watson and Ken Green will share the Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for continuing to stay active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness.

Green lost the lower part of his right leg when his recreational vehicle ran off a road in Mississippi and killed his brother and his girlfriend. Green has been fitted with a prosthesis and hopes to resume his career on the Champions Tour. Watson had hip replacement surgery, and eight months later nearly became golf's oldest major champion at 59 until losing in a playoff at the British Open.

It was the first time the Ben Hogan Award ended in a tie.

Padraig Harrington was honored with the ASAPSports/Jim Murray Award for his cooperation with the media, while golf course architect Pete Dye won the William D. Richardson Award for consistent and outstanding contributions to golf.

They will be honored at the GWAA Awards Dinner on April 7 in Augusta, Ga.

A WINNER IN TIGER'S CAMP: At least one member of Tiger Woods' team has reason to celebrate these days.

Steve Williams, who races cars on a dirt track when he's not caddying for golf's No. 1 player, made it through a series of qualifying races to a 24-car field and won the New Zealand Saloon Car Championship last weekend.

That made him the first driver to win the Saloon Car Championship and the Super Saloon Car Championship, which he captured in 2006. Next up is a chance to win his third straight race at the Super Saloon this weekend as he tries to become the first driver to hold both titles in the same season.

As for when he might return to his other job? Williams offered no insight in a telephone interview Tuesday.

LONG WALK: Players are allowed to use carts during the practice rounds and the pro-am at the SBS Championship because of the massive elevation changes on the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

So why was Retief Goosen's caddie wiping sweat from his brow after nine holes?

"I walked," he said while catching his breath. "The ninth hole is the worst."

Goosen said he has spent plenty of time in the gym, but wanted to get used to walking a golf course. It was bad enough that he had his caddie go for a long and hilly walk. He also had 17 clubs in the bag.

Ryan Moore also chose to walk during the practice rounds.

DIVOTS: Geoff Ogilvy is sporting a new look at Kapalua - Titleist on his cap instead of Cobra, Foot-Joys on his feet instead of Puma, and he shaved, which he didn't do at all last year. Ogilvy said he was not able to renew his deal with Puma. ... Seven players are making their debut at the SBS Championship. Even more alarming is that only seven players are in the winners-only field for the second straight year. ... The Sony Open next week in Honolulu got a big boost this week when Ernie Els and Vijay Singh committed to play.

STAT OF THE WEEK: For the first time in 10 years, only one player in the field at Kapalua had won a PGA Tour event on the Plantation Course - defending champion Geoff Ogilvy.

FINAL WORD: "Anyone who hasn't talked about the Tiger thing in the last two months was on the moon." - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

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