John Daly’s suspension on the PGA Tour is over, and the two-time major champion plans to return in three weeks for the St. Jude Championship and U.S. Open qualifying.
Daly was suspended for six months in November after a series of off-course incidents that brought negative publicity, the most recent a photo of him in an orange jail suit with his eyes half-closed after being locked up overnight in North Carolina to get sober.
He has played eight times overseas during his suspension, including a month in Europe, where he tied for second in the Italian Open.
“I know I’ll be ready to play,” Daly said in a telephone interview from Wentworth, where he tied for 72nd at the BMW PGA Championship. “I’m not going to be (half-trying) like I’ve done in the past. I know I may not play the tour if something good doesn’t happen. It’s making me work harder.”
Daly hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the Buick Invitational five years ago, and he has not kept his card the last two years, having to rely on sponsor exemptions and tournaments where he won, such as the British Open and PGA Championship.
He said he has received a sponsor’s exemption to the St. Jude Championship on June 11-14 in Memphis, Tenn., near his home. Daly said he also has received an exemption from the Buick Open the last week in July, and he is hopeful of others.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the tour does not comment on player discipline; it never confirmed that Daly was suspended, and now cannot confirm that a suspension has been lifted.
Daly told The Associated Press over the Christmas holidays that he had been suspended for the second time in his career, and he said he found out two weeks ago while playing in Ireland that he had been reinstated.
“I don’t really feel I deserved to be suspended,” Daly said. “But I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m going to turn it into a positive. I’m getting my life back in order and I’m more organized.”
His agent at SFX Sports, Bud Martin, said Daly, 43, is not taking as many short cuts as he tries to get his game in order.
“He’s been working on his game, working on trying to get his life together off the course,” Martin said Monday. He’s had some signs of some good golf in Europe, and from talking to him on the telephone, I would say he sounds as good and as optimistic and is in as good of a place as I heard from him in 20 years.
“I don’t want to curse him, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Daly at least will look different than his last start on the PGA Tour, when he missed the cut at Las Vegas in October.
He had lap-band surgery on his stomach in February to restrict his eating, and says he already has lost 50 pounds in three months.
“What I’m eating in one week is what I used to eat in one day,” he said of his 1,200-calorie per day intake. He also says he has not been drinking as much as before, and only sips when he does.
He signed a clothing deal with Sonoma, Calif.-based Loudmouth Golf, wearing trousers with wild and colorful prints, some of them looking like pajamas. Daly wore hot pink Sunday at Wentworth to pay tribute to Phil Mickelson’s wife being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I love the reaction I’ve gotten from the media and the fans in the U.K.,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Uncertain how many times he can play on the PGA Tour, he said he will continue to focus on “The Race to Dubai” on the European Tour. Daly already has played six times on the European Tour and is 94th in the standings. The top 70 are eligible for the $10 million Dubai World Championship.
“I’m enjoying it over here,” he said. “My big concern is the Race to Dubai. I’m not sure if I can get in 15 (U.S.) tour events.”
Daly said he has asked for exemptions to just about every PGA Tour event, although he will need to play at least three more times on the European Tour to be eligible for Dubai.
Asked if he would still be welcome on the PGA Tour, Daly said, “I haven’t done anything to hurt any of the tournaments.”
When he confirmed his suspension, Daly mentioned four incidents in 2008 that led to his time off:
• Using former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Jon Gruden as his caddie following a rain delay at Innisbrook.
• While promoting a golf course in Missouri, doing a regional television interview wearing only blue jeans – no shirt, no shoes.
• Revving up the fans at the Buick Open by using a beer can as a tee during the pro-am while playing with Kid Rock.
• Spending a night in jail in North Carolina to get sober, and the subsequent jail photo that became an Internet sensation.
He was asked to describe a perfect return in Memphis.
“A win would be great,” he said. “I’m just happy to be playing again. I don’t care where it’s at, as long as I can play somewhere.”