Originally created 03/31/97

Daly withdraws from Players, enters rehab



PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - John Daly, an admitted alcoholic, withdrew from the Players Championship the day after a long drinking session in a bar, and on Sunday said he would immediately begin treatment for alcoholism.

"I apologize to others who struggle with me in fighting this disease," Daly said in a statement released through his agent. "I'm going to do my best and hopefully we will prevail together."

There was no indication how long he will be away from golf, though it is almost certain he will miss the Masters in two weeks.

Buddy Martin, one of his agents for Cambridge Sports International, said Daly already had entered the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, Calif. Martin said he was awakened Friday morning with a call from Daly's wife Paulette saying her husband needed help.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it was an "important step" for Daly to "recognize and acknowledge his disease and his relapse."

Daly was seen drinking for several hours in a nightspot called Sloppy Joe's on Thursday. He sang with the band and at one point took the microphone and drew loud applause when he praised the Jacksonville Jaguars football team, according to several people who were present.

The next day he withdrew from the tournament, citing a sore hip.

"The hip problem is legitimate," Martin said from his home in Pittsburgh. "He talked to the tour on Thursday and said he might withdraw. It's been bothering him for some time."

It was not immediately clear if the PGA Tour would take action against Daly.

"We fully support his decision to enter the Betty Ford program and we admire his courage in taking the action he has to find the best professional help he can," Finchem said. "John is doing what is best for him, and we wish him well in this effort."

Mark O'Meara, a player representative on the PGA Tour policy board, was relieved to hear Daly was entering rehab.

"He's a nice kid," O'Meara said. "He's had a lot of second chances. Maybe this one will work."

Tiger Woods said Daly wasn't ready for the attention he received when he won the 1991 PGA Championship.

"When he burst on the scene he never had a chance to adjust," Woods said. "I'm in a different situation. If he ever needs help, my door is always open."

Daly, 30, entered an alcohol rehabilitation program in 1993 but late last year admitted he was drinking "socially."

"In August of 1996 I suffered a setback in dealing with my disease," Daly said. "Until that time, I felt I had won the battle alone by simply stopping the act of drinking. I've come to realize this terrible disease is much tougher than I thought and have decided with the support of my family and friends to let others help me."

At the Heineken Classic in Australia earlier this year, Daly shot a third-round 83 then played the final round in just 2 hours, 10 minutes.

"You can't play cards all night, drink, smoke, eat hamburgers and play top-class golf," Tony Roosenburg, organizer of the tournament, said at the time. "You can't blame the whole world, only yourself."

Daly revealed in October he was drinking again.

"It is true that I have had a few beers on several occasions this summer, but I have not been involved in any alcohol-related incidents," Daly said.

"I have not been drinking to excess, and this has not been the reason the level of my play lately has been below my usual standards. In fact, I have put more time and effort into my golf game than I have at any time."

John Mascatello, another of Daly's agents, said then that Daly had been "drinking socially, not to excess."

"The thing we don't want is for this to be portrayed as John Daly falling off the wagon," Mascatello said in October. "John believes he can handle this."

The PGA Tour suspended Daly once for picking up his ball in a tournament and in September 1994 - in what amounted to another suspension - announced that Daly would voluntarily sit out the rest of the year after he got into a shouting match and scuffled with a 62-year-old man.

It appeared Daly might have turned his life around when he won the 1994 BellSouth Classic and said it was the first tournament he won sober. In 1995, a still sober Daly won the British Open in a playoff with Costantino Rocca.

"I am trying to do everything I can in my life off the golf course to make sure that I have a happy life for the rest of my life," Daly said at the time. "I don't think I would be here today if I were still drinking. To win a major championship sober is incredible."

Daly has had only two top-10 finishes since winning the British Open, the most recent a seventh-place finish at the Bob Hope Classic in February. It's his only finish above 27th this year.