Anything's possible in John Daly's world

January, 2, 2009
01/02/09
2:44
PM ET
It was bound to come to this for John Daly.

Harig On Daly's Future

ESPN.com golf columnist Bob Harig discusses John Daly's six-month suspension by the PGA Tour and what options may be ahead for the two-time major champion. Watch Video

• Watch: Sobel on perception is reality Video

• Daly calls suspension a career low point

The Associated Press is reporting that the two-time major champion says he has been suspended by the PGA Tour for "conduct that included spending a night in a jail to sober up." It also includes everything from spending time at a beer garden during a rain delay at the PODS Championship to conducting an interview while shirtless with a Missouri television station to hitting a tee shot off the top of a beer can during a pro-am round with Kid Rock at the Buick Open to smashing a spectator's camera at the recent Australian Open.

Individually, none of these actions -- even, perhaps, the aforementioned night in jail after a night out at a Winston-Salem, N.C.-area Hooters on Oct. 27 -- may have been enough for Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to suspend Daly's playing privileges, but when pieced together the puzzle reveals a picture of a troubled man who may need some time away from the game.

That probably won't happen, though. Just because he's been suspended by the PGA Tour doesn't mean Daly won't be playing competitive golf tournaments until the spring. Without full-time playing privileges in the U.S., he was looking to compete under the Past Champion category and through sponsor's exemptions, though he's recently hinted that more overseas events were in his plans anyway. As a past winner of the British Open, Daly can join the European Tour, and now that appears his only option, though not an inconvenient Plan B based on this recent news.

As for the suspension, my initial thought is that the PGA Tour is doing this as a preventative measure to save Daly from himself, to allow him time to seek any recovery and rehabilitation for personal problems he may own. (PGA Tour executive vice president Ty Votaw declined to comment on the matter, citing the Tour's longtime policy of not discussing player suspensions.) It seems like a valiant gesture on the surface, but in reality the Tour is leaving Daly to his own devices -- a prospect that has proven harmful in the past -- while imploring him to seek employment elsewhere.

Essentially, the PGA Tour didn't banish Daly from golf for six months; it just had him deported.

Consider this yet another in a long line of setbacks in the life and times of John Daly. He's a man known as much for his four marriages and divorces (if my count is correct), his sponsorship tie-in with Hooters and releasing a country music album as he is for his booming drives, underrated short game and five career PGA Tour victories. Daly's never been one to stay out of the headlines and this suspension may hurt his career or it may light a fire under him to party less and practice more.

Those who have worked with him may take issue with such a suggestion about a newly motivated Daly.

"The most important thing in his life is getting drunk," Butch Harmon, who briefly served as Daly's instructor, said earlier this year. When asked to clarify, he intoned, "The partying and other shenanigans, if that's the way he wants to be, I don't choose to be a part of it."

If anything, Daly has shown that he needs golf as much as -- if not more than -- golf needs one of its biggest drawing cards over the past two decades. Ask Daly himself and you'll find a man who downplays his off-course issues and is looking forward to competing now that a lingering rib injury has fully healed.

"I think I've made more money for the '09 European Tour on this trip than I did all year last year on our tour," he said following last month's Hong Kong Open, where he finished T-17 after a final-round 62. "I think I've come from close to coming from ground zero all the way back up. But who knows? I've just got to keep working at it. Being healthy helps."

"Healthy" is, of course, a relative term. While Daly may feel better physically, his actions purport a man who at times appears on a crash course for disaster. He recently reported that his time away from golf is spent eating junk food while watching DVDs in hotel rooms -- certainly nothing suspension-worthy -- but his night in jail proves otherwise.

That said, Daly's results have never hinged upon his off-course actions. Remember, this is a guy who's less than 18 months removed from preparing for the PGA Championship by abstaining from practice rounds in exchange for playing the slots at a nearby casino, only to contend for the tournament title on a course that didn't necessarily suit his game.

And he could still come out smelling like a sweat-stained rose through this most recent firestorm. Just think: If the guy can shoot 62 while not taking care of himself, anything is possible if he decides to dedicate himself to his craft.

Whether Daly turns his life around and becomes a competitive player once again or continues down the road to apparent career destruction is anybody's guess. What is clearly evident, though, is that the words "wasted talent" have never fit a golfer better than JD -- in more ways than one. Like Track 7 of his country album states, "I only know one way."

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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