ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — John Daly woke up Wednesday morning to read that swing coach Butch Harmon fired him. Then he got a phone call when he was at the entrance to Bay Hill letting him know he had been kicked out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational for missing the pro-am.
“Hasn’t been a good day,” Daly told The Associated Press. “This is the last thing I needed in my life. I feel like I let Arnold down.”
The wild ride of golf’s most unpredictable figure took another hairpin turn when Daly said he was given wrong information that caused him to miss his tee time, starting a bizarre chain reaction that knocked out two other players from the tournament.
The tour has a policy that anyone missing the pro-am is ineligible to play in the tournament.
Daly, who received a sponsor’s exemption, played a Monday pro-am at Bay Hill and said he was asked to play the Wednesday pro-am, too. He requested a morning start, then called Tuesday to find out his tee time. A woman in the tournament office told him 9:47 a.m., which instead was his starting time for the first round.
“I didn’t even know that was my Thursday tee time,” Daly said. “I should have looked into it. It stinks for me. I want to do anything I can for the tournament as a sponsor exemption. I wanted to meet the people I was playing with in the pro-am. I love Arnold Palmer to death. I called and talked to him and apologized.
“And the thing that upsets me is I cost Nick O’Hern and Ryuji Imada, so now I got these guys mad at me, too.”
Imada and O’Hern were alternates for the pro-am, and both thought they were assigned to the afternoon group. Instead, they were the first two names called when Daly didn’t show, and when neither was around, they also were disqualified from the $5.8 million event.
O’Hern lives only five minutes away at Isleworth and was furious to learn he would not be eligible.
“When I should have been on the tee, I was giving my girls breakfast,” O’Hern said. “I thought common sense would have prevailed. This is a tough one to take. Unfortunately, we got caught up in John’s snowball effect.”
The snowball is starting to look like an avalanche.
Daly lost his full PGA Tour card two years ago and relies mainly on sponsor exemptions. In seven events this year, he has missed the cut three times and withdrew from the Bob Hope Classic, where he was spotted at several after-hour parties.
His best finish was a tie for 60th in Mexico, an opposite-field event.
The Bay Hill mix-up comes one day after Harmon, one golf’s most renowned swing coaches, said he was done working with Daly because the two-time major champion appeared more interested in drinking than working on his game.
“My whole goal for him was he’s got to show me golf is the most important thing in his life,” Harmon said. “And the most important thing in his life is getting drunk.”
Harmon said Daly’s behavior last week at the PODS Championship was enough to end the short-lived relationship.
Daly spent a 2 1/2-hour rain delay during the first round in a Hooters corporate tent behind the 17th green at Innisbrook. He was 3 over, and when play resumed, he had Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden caddie for him the rest of the day. After missing the cut with rounds of 77-80, Daly spent Saturday at the Hooters “Owl’s Nest” next to the 17th hole, drinking beer, mingling with fans and signing autographs, including one on the back of a woman’s pants.
“I just wish Butch had called me before getting slapped in the face,” Daly said. “I love Butch to death. I still think he’s the greatest coach out there. I just told him, ‘Don’t always believe what you read in the paper.’ I texted him, ‘All I wish you’d done is call me.’ It was a shock to me.”
As for his escapade at the Owl’s Nest?
Daly said he thought he was doing the tournament a favor by drumming up business at the raucous tent.
“I signed about a thousand hats,” Daly said. “I love Hooters. I had a few beers and some chicken wings. It was Saturday. I wasn’t even playing in the tournament.”
Daly has been on a downward spiral since losing a playoff to Tiger Woods in 2005 at Harding Park in a World Golf Championship event. He injured his ribs last year at the Honda Classic when he tried to stop his powerful swing upon hearing the click of a fan’s camera, and Daly recently said he was contemplating a lawsuit against the tournament, which gave him a sponsor’s exemption.
“My life is upside-down right now,” Daly said. “No matter what I do, it’s wrong. I’m thinking of writing a new song. I’ll call it, ‘I guess it’s my fault, even when it’s not my fault.”‘
Daly said he played Tuesday at a nearby course with Robert Gamez, who helped sort out his putting problems.
“I was looking forward to a great week,” Daly said. “I’ve always had great success at Bay Hill. I usually don’t ever miss the cut. I called Arnold, and said he feels just as bad about it. I saw him Monday and he gave me a big ol’ hug and said, ‘Thanks for being here.”‘
Success at Bay Hill is in the eye of the Wild Thing.
Daly has played 14 times at Palmer’s event, and his best finish is a tie for 10th. He has missed the cut three times, and four times shot in the 80s in the final round. One of those scores came in 1998, when Daly hit six balls in the water on the par-5 sixth and made an 18.
“I hope things get better,” Phil Mickelson said. “I think we all do.”