FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – There was a bit of an uproar when John Daly was given approval to use a golf cart during the 101st PGA Championship this week at Bethpage Black.
The 1991 PGA Championship winner put the critics like Tiger Woods aside during Thursday’s opening round, shooting a 5-over 75 playing alongside Y.E. Yang and Rich Beem. Daly, who was tied for 112th, is the first player to use a cart at a major championship since Casey Martin at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club.
Daly, who plays on the PGA Tour Champions which allows carts, says his knee injury keeps him from walking a full round. The two-time major champion hasn’t walked at a tournament since last September in an event on the European Tour in Switzerland.
LEADERBOARD: 101st PGA Championship
“One rule (for the cart) was to try and keep pace with the way the guys were walking, I think I did a real good job with that,” Daly said after his round. “I can’t go up past my ball and I can’t drive up and come back, but I never do that on the senior tour. It’s not far from the senior tour, just a couple stipulations.”
The two-time major champion received a waiver from the PGA of America to use a cart in the year’s second major under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has applied to use one for the British Open, as well.
“It’s very awkward (to use a cart) and it’s almost to a point where it’s embarrassing,” he added, noting that he’d prefer to walk.
As as a past champion, Daly said he feels “obligated” to keep playing, if able.
“I don’t want to ride all the time, but if I don’t, I won’t be able to finish. I enjoy playing and I’m still competitive. It’s not really ego, I feel committed.”
PGA of America officials gave Daly “suggested routes” to navigate the course and told him he couldn’t have any rain gear or umbrellas in his cart, but he could have the most important things: his Diet Cokes and cigarettes. In fact, while waiting on the third tee box, Daly smoked a cigarette and refilled his large McDonald’s cup with another Diet Coke.
If there was ever a man built to handle New York fans, it’s Daly.
“New York fans are great,” he said with a smile while wearing New York Yankees-themed pants from his Loudmouth clothing company. “Some of them are going to get on you, but 99.9% are great.”
Daly has missed the cut at the PGA 17 times since his win in 1991 and earned just three top-50 finishes. In a round where he “played better than (he) scored,” Daly was proud of the way he competed Thursday on a knee that was swollen to “the size of a softball.”
He even took the time to mention leader Brooks Koepka and praise his ability to hit the ball far.
High praise from a guy who earned the nickname “Long John.”
Daly is back on the course Friday morning at 7:29 a.m. ET, riding alongside Yang and Beem once again.