John Daly walked out of alcohol rehabilitation two years ago and found a "father figure" in Ely Callaway, who offered Daly a second chance as long as he stayed away from the addictions that sabotaged his talented but troubled career.
Callaway severed his relationship with Daly on Wednesday, saying the former PGA and British Open champion reneged on his deal not to drink or gamble, and then turned down an offer for help.
"We care a great deal about John as a person, a golfer and a friend," the 80-year-old chairman of Callaway Golf said. "Regrettably, we cannot continue to have John as a company representative when he is not prepared to take the future steps that we feel are necessary to deal with the alcohol and gambling problems facing him."
Callaway declined to say when or where Daly started drinking again, only that it was confirmed by company employees.
Daly was returning from Callaway headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., to his home in Arkansas and couldn't be reached for comment. His agent, John Mascatello, referred questions to a statement posted on Daly's website -- gripitandripit.com.
"My commitment to live a sober life remains strong," Daly said. "Alcoholism is a disease which will continue to challenge me the rest of my life. I accept the difficulties presented and hope that I will overcome whatever obstacles I face."
So takes another sad turn in the career of Daly, one of golf's most exciting and volatile personalities since he came out of nowhere to win the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in 1991, thrilling galleries with his "Grip It and Rip It" style that make him the longest hitter in the game.
But for every 350-yard drive, there were incidents. Daly trashed hotel rooms in a drunken rage, tanked rounds in tournaments in which he received appearance money, or was forced to write outrageous scores on his card.
He took an 18 in the Bay Hill Invitational last year by hitting a 3-wood into the water six times. Four months ago, he six-putted from eight feet on the 18th hole in the Memorial and stormed off the course.
"It's sad," Ernie Els said from Paris, where he is playing in the Lancome Trophy. "He's a great friend of mine, and hopefully he knows what he's doing. He's a hell of a talent, but he needs to be happy with himself, and only John Daly knows what it will take."
One source said Daly first denied drinking when confronted by Callaway, his main sponsor. Callaway offered to pay for him to see a national expert on addictions. The source said Daly went as far as the front door of the clinic before turning around.
"He's going to AA meetings every day," another source said. "He didn't feel like inpatient treatment would be any different the third time around."
Daly, who says he started drinking when he was 8, first went through alcohol rehab in Arizona at the end of the 1992. He returned to win the British Open at St. Andrews in 1995. Two years later, he trashed a hotel room after a drinking binge during The Players Championship, and it really cost him.
Wilson Sports canceled its contract and Daly's second wife filed for divorce.
Callaway took him on when everyone else abandoned ship, putting its Big Bertha products into the hands of a player who has led the PGA Tour in driving distance every year but one since 1991.
"Mr. Callaway is like a father figure," Daly said when he returned to the tour in 1997.
Daly's recovery has been very public, some of it chilling. He walked off the course midway through the second round of the '97 U.S. Open without so much as telling his caddie. He later said he had the shakes.
He led the first round of the PGA Championship at Winged Foot later that year, but fell out of contention and hurled his driver over the fence after another massive swing and wild tee shot in the third round.
And last year in Vancouver, Daly got the shakes so bad on the 15th hole in the first round that he cried uncontrollably. He gathered himself, made the par putt and finished the round.
In 19 events this year, Daly has missed the cut seven times, withdrawn four times and finished in the top 50 only four times.
He has shown glimpses of his skill, though. He had a 68 in the first round of the U.S. Open and was one off the lead. By Sunday, the other Daly showed up. Frustrated by the domed greens of Pinehurst No. 2, Daly swatted a moving ball with his putter and took an 11 on the par-4 eighth hole.
Then he gripped the microphone and ripped into the USGA.
"This is my last US Open -- ever," he said. "I've had it with the USGA and the way they run their tournaments."
He apologized two days later.
"He's trying to recover on the stage of one of the more stressful, difficult games on earth, and be a champion in front of millions," Callaway said in late July. "I don't know of anybody who has ever tried to do that."
Daly had two years remaining on his contract with Callaway, which was loaded with incentives for the later years.
Callaway said there was an outside chance he could renew the contract with Daly if the golfer got help, but "with his present attitude, we're not very hopeful."
"We like him, we admire him," Callaway said. "And we wish that he would get into a serious recovery program."