After initially saying he would play anyway, on Tuesday John Daly confirmed that he will not compete in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush next week after the Royal & Ancient (R&A) ruled that he cannot use a golf cart to ride around the course in order to ease his osteoarthritic condition.
The 148th Open at Royal Portrush...... pic.twitter.com/RAOLQUmfLY— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) 6 July 2019
In a statement last Saturday, the R&A said of the 1995 Open champion: “We have carefully considered the request from John Daly to use a buggy at the Open. We appreciate the difficulty John is facing and have full sympathy for him as this is clearly a serious, long-term condition. Having considered all of the relevant factors, the championship committee has decided to decline his request. We believe that walking the course is an integral part of the championship and is central to the tradition of links golf which is synonymous with the Open. We must also ensure that, as far as possible, the challenge is the same for all players in the field.”
The statement added: “The terrain at Royal Portrush is not suited to buggies… we have a serious concern that some parts of the course, where there are severe slopes and swales, would be inaccessible.” Don’t tell me no one at the R&A has heard of the 90-degree rule?
This story was given legs (which Daly himself would prefer not to use too often) by the fact that he was permitted to ride at the USPGA Championship in New York in May. Still, golf carts are a far more common feature in America than they are in GB&I, although I can’t see the Masters agreeing to that one – albeit the closest Daly gets to Augusta National these days is sticking his trailer in the car park at Hooters.
Golf has been here before. You may remember the sad case of Casey Martin, who was born with a defect in his right leg which meant it was liable to break at any time. In 2001 he successfully sued the PGA Tour for the right to use a cart in competition. As to the R&A statement about “walking the course is an integral part of the championship”, I was reminded of Herbert Warren Wind’s marvellous account of Ken Venturi’s dramatic triumph over the golf course and heat exhaustion at the 1964 US Open.
Wind referenced the fact that the championship concluded with two rounds on the final day “because the United States Golf Association (USGA) remains convinced that endurance as well as skill should be a requisite of a national champion… only the soundest swings can stand up under the attrition of 36 holes in one day”. What would the blazers of 50 years ago have made of Daly trundling round the course in his mobile tabac?
The Open Championship also ended with a double round (finishing on a Friday!) until 1966. Things move with the times. Now both major Opens are played over four days. Both have got rid of the 18-hole playoff, the USGA only recently. Heck, back in 1931 they had a 36-hole playoff in the event of a tie, and after Billy Burke and George Von Elm had finished level after the first one of those they had to do it all over again. So, yes, the initial tournament and the playoff both lasted 72 holes; and, no, the endurance element is no longer what it was.
There are those who will say that allowing Daly to ride a cart in the Open would be the thin end of the (potato) wedge, (probably a Big Mac to go with it). But might it not, in some way, make the game seem a little more welcoming and the authorities a little less averse to embracing those who don’t conform to a stereotype? When all is said and done, the R&A wants to identify the champion golfer, not a likely marathon winner.
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com