John Daly has not played in a Nationwide Tour event since 1991. That apparently did not stop him from trying to get a sponsor's exemption in this week's Stadion Athens Classic at UGA. I first heard the rumor yesterday from a University of Georgia golfer. A follow-on rumor was that he was still planning to drive on up to Athens, even if he was not playing. So the best way to confirm or deny these rumors was to go to the source himself : @PGA_JohnDaly on Twitter.
Before the Injury: John Daly tees walks on to the 13th green during the first round of the Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana on April 22 2010 in Avondale, Louisiana Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images
"I had asked to play to keep my game going and the tournament director was excited to have me! Then I got a call that they had to give spot to a local," said Daly via Twitter. "It was just weird. Tournament director was excited and then turned like some other board decision? My agent didn't get that one either?"
While Dave Cousart, the tournament director, may have been excited, there were no exemptions to be given out. Two spots were set aside for University of Georgia golfers (more about that later this week), and the other two were given to Paul Claxton, an alumna of Georgia, and Jay McLuen, a player with local ties.
"We have to take the lesson's learned this year and perhaps delay the selection of sponsor exemptions next year so that we have more flexibility." said Cousart this morning.
And that flexibility may be key. Paul Claxton qualified to play by virtue of his performance last week in the South Georgia Classic. That meant a sponsor's exemption opened up. But John Daly injured his back on Saturday and had to withdraw from the Zurich Classic. We do not know if he would have gotten the spot if he was not hurt. What we do know is that the spot went to UGA Alumna Brendon Todd, who stole the show last year with back to back aces on the same hole on consecutive days.
Still there is a lingering question: what would John Daly have meant to the gate at this week's event? Would he have drawn people to the event who might not otherwise take the time? Would it have been a better business decision to give a player like Daly a spot in the field? Or was it a better political decision to reserve sports for players with UGA and/or Athens area ties?
Would you be more likely to attend a Nationwide Tour event if someone like John Daly was in the field?