Daly-Harmon split another nasty career setback

ORLANDO -- As far as breakups go, this one is pretty tame by John Daly's standards. There is no alimony, no acrimony, no children left to suffer the consequences.

But Big John will pay. He won't be singing "all my exes wear Rolexes" about his split from coach Butch Harmon. But he will pay.

Perhaps with his career.

The latest in a long list of questionable decisions by Daly blew up with the disclosure that the noted swing instructor has had enough.

Harmon heard the reports out of the PODS Championship last week about Daly drinking in a hospitality tent and told Daly their short-lived working relationship was over. "If he's not going to give 100 percent effort, it's a waste of my time," Harmon told The Associated Press.

Daly, 41, a two-time major champion, has been divorced three times, has been in and out of court with his current wife, Sherrie, was suspended once by the PGA Tour, has sought treatment for alcohol dependency and has claimed gambling losses in the millions. And Wednesday morning, he did not show up for his tee time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational pro-am.

That makes him ineligible for the tournament. And it is just another in a long line of transgressions.

His actions at the PODS Championship could get him fined, perhaps suspended -- although the PGA Tour typically does not disclose such penalties.

Daly, who had been given a sponsor exemption to the Tampa-area tournament, retreated to the Hooters Owl's Nest, a rowdy hospitality venue near the 17th green, when play was suspended for two and a half hours during the first round due to rain.

When the golf resumed, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden was caddying for Daly in place of his regular bag-toter, Peter Van Der Reit. Daly went on to shoot 78. And with Van Der Reit back for the second round, Daly shot 80 to miss the cut by 13 shots.

Given that Daly has played in seven tournaments this season -- missing three cuts, withdrawing from another event and finishing no better than 60th -- some figured it might be wise for Daly to work on his game.

Instead, he showed up Saturday at the course and spent a good part of the afternoon in the Owl's Nest, where he made no effort to conceal his consumption of alcohol and at one point flipped off a Tampa Tribune photographer, the paper said. Daly had an endorsement deal with Hooters for several years, although he no longer carries the company's logo on his clothing or golf bag.

"He had the largest gallery out there when he was playing," said Ed Droste, a Daly friend and co-founder of the Clearwater, Fla.,-based Hooters Restaurants, on Wednesday. "In his own way, he was bringing a little of his own energy to a great tournament but one that was definitely challenged by the weather.

"I spoke to him [Monday] night, and he said, 'I thought I was doing you guys a favor. I didn't turn down anybody.' He signed autograph after autograph after autograph. When he got to town, he was like an ambassador. He threw out the first pitch at a Phillies [spring training] game. He signed autographs over the dugout. A lot of golf fans see themselves in the way he plays, and he broadens the demographic. I wish people could see all the good he does."

And there is the contradiction. Daly might be harming himself, but fans love the guy because he drinks too much, smokes too much, eats too much and can smash a golf ball without regard for where it goes.

"It is on the one hand something that makes him very endearing to fans, because he is perhaps the ultimate come-from-behind, blue-collar, upstart kind of situation with all of these challenges," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. "On the other hand, we have certain conduct that we have to maintain, and we'll continue to try to do that. We've worked with John in the past, and we'll continue to be available to work with him in the future regarding his issues."

Finchem said has not fully reviewed the events that occurred at the PODS Championship and has yet to speak to Daly.

Daly, a five-time PGA Tour winner, has played poorly the past two seasons, finishing well outside of exempt status. But his popularity has gotten him numerous sponsor exemptions; last year, he played in 24 tournaments, but he made just nine cuts.

Harmon, who has helped several players over the years, including Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, and Phil Mickelson, was seen as the type who would give Daly some tough love, highlight the enormous talent.

Instead, he broke off the relationship before it could really get started, leaving Daly to take stock of a very uncertain golf future.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.