SYDNEY, Australia (AP) — John Daly smashed a spectator’s camera into a tree while shooting a 6-over 78 in the first round of the Australian Open on Thursday, making it likely he will miss the cut for the third consecutive week Down Under.
After pushing his tee shot wide on the ninth hole – his last – Daly walked into a clump of trees, where spectator Brad Clegg tried to take a picture at close range.
Daly snatched the camera and smashed it against the nearest tree, telling the man, “You want it back, I’ll buy you a new one.”
He later released a statement via tournament organizers saying Clegg got too close.
“I was looking to take a drop and a camera was 6 inches away from my face. If I was 10 under, I would have felt the same,” Daly said in the brief statement. “My eyes are still burning from the flash of the camera.
“I feel it was very rude to put a camera that close to somebody’s face in any situation. The guy that had the camera had already taken a dozen shots at close range.”
Without saying another word, Daly took his penalty drop, finished the hole with a bogey and stormed off the course immediately after signing his card.
Asked if he would seek compensation, Clegg told the Australian Associated Press: “I don’t think I’ll be chasing him for the money. He’s a big bloke!”
Daly, who missed the cut at the Australian Masters and the PGA in the last two weeks and is being paid an appearance fee for his three-tournament trip to Australia, had three double bogeys, three bogeys and four birdies.
Clegg said he didn’t think he provoked Daly by going so close.
“I was bold, but I wasn’t unreasonable,” Clegg said.
Terms and conditions for tickets at the Australian Open prohibit the use of cameras on the course for spectators.
Tournament director Trevor Herden told reporters the episode was “an unfortunate incident,” but Daly would not face sanctions and confirmed the 42-year-old American would tee off in the second round on Friday.
PGA of Australasia commissioner Ben Sellenger said the tour has the power to impose a fine or other sanctions, but this will remain confidential.
“We’re reviewing the incident to see if any action is appropriate,” Sellenger said.
Herden said he spoke to Clegg and the spectator realized he should not have been using the camera without proper accreditation. Organizers offered Clegg tickets for the weekend, but he declined.
Daly is sensitive about cameras on the course, having required surgery earlier this year to fix a torn muscle in his stomach that he said he injured at the Honda Classic in 2007 when he tried to stop his swing after hearing the click of a fan’s camera.
Daly is making his first visit to Australia since 2002, when he left in controversial circumstances.
After taking a triple-bogey 7 on his last hole at the Australian PGA at Coolum that year, Daly threw his putter and ball into a greenside pond and later failed to sign for a 78 on his scorecard, disqualifying himself from a tournament.
Daly was later fined $5,600 by the Australasian PGA Tour and was ordered to write a letter of apology to a tour official he verbally abused, and to Craig Parry and his other playing partner, Greg Norman.
Daly is trying to finish a difficult year on a positive note.
He spent a night in jail on Oct. 27 after being found “extremely intoxicated and uncooperative,” police said, outside a Hooters restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Daly hasn’t had a PGA Tour card since 2006, when his two-year exemption expired from his last victory at the Buick Invitational in 2004. He made only five cuts in 17 starts on the PGA Tour this year and earned $56,000.
His only bright spot in the past month was a final-round 62 at the Hong Kong Open en route to a 17th-place tie.