John Daly has pulled out of this weekend’s U.S. Senior Open, citing a knee injury.
And what’s more, he’s not being shy about insisting that he could’ve played had the USGA allowed him a medical exemption that would allow him to use a golf cart on the course, something that is on occasion done by the senior circuit to allow those over 50, whose mobility is limited by age, to compete at the sport’s highest level for superannuated players.
Daly claims osteoarthritis in his right knee entitles him to protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires “reasonable accommodation” in order to perform work, in this case the work of hitting a golf ball over the course of what otherwise amounts to a four-mile walk.
The USGA, however, is allowed to deny such an exemption if providing a cart to a player “fundamentally alters the fairness of the competition,” which in the past has been interpreted to mean “if you can walk, you walk, if you can’t, you get a cart.”
The USGA’s own ADA-compliant bylaws refer to the latter case as a “substantial impairment.”
At issue here is not whether knee osteoarthritis is a substantial impairment to walking over 7,000 yards while hitting a golf ball with precision; anyone with knees that sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal thanks to old sports injuries knows that long walks on the golf course are right out.
The problem comes in the USGA’s view that Daly failed to provide adequate medical documentation to clear the requirement for showing the disability in question.
And, this being the age of social media, the tiff spilled over onto Twitter.
I’m not going to mislead the media or my fans. No “additional information” was ever requested, or it would have been provided. I “WD” bc @USGA had already made their decision after our exhaustive medical submission. Any claim to the contrary is pure fiction. https://t.co/6EfnBnkqaJ
— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) June 26, 2018
“Each request is reviewed individually,” the USGA said in a tweet. “We respect the privacy of all players and cannot discuss any medical conditions. We offered Mr. Daly the opportunity to provide additional information to support his request. He decided to withdraw this morning.”
To which Daly replied, “I’m not going to mislead the media or my fans. No ‘additional information’ was ever requested, or it would have been provided. I ‘WD’ bc @USGA had already made their decision after our exhaustive medical submission. Any claim to the contrary is pure fiction.”
Daly also spoke to USA Today on the matter.
“I’ve been fighting this (injury) for so long and it’s my career they’re screwing around with here,” Daly, 52, said. “I’m pissed because I’ve been playing good golf and I want to play golf, that’s what I do for a living. But you know, you can’t walk 18 holes, you can’t walk 18 holes.”
Daly did use a cart last weekend at the American Family Insurance Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event. However, the PGA does not operate the U.S. Senior Open.
The USGA, bound by healthcare privacy laws, cannot go into detail on the relevant part of Daly’s medical records that informed its decision to deny the request for a cart, but given its history for making something as game-changing as motorized transport in a walking sport difficult to obtain, it is likely the USGA’s lawyers advised the organization to have sufficient evidence on its side — or that, given the burden of proof to obtain a waiver, Daly doesn’t have enough evidence on his.
The injury itself is a bizarre story in its own right.
Daly hurt his knee playing in 2017, then re-injured it in a weird incident at an Atlanta Hooters restaurant when a woman crashed her car into his RV in April.
Meanwhile, at the tournament itself, Scott Verplank will be using a golf cart after he has obtained the relevant medical exemption.
The U.S. Senior Open is this week at the Broadmoor East course in Colorado Springs.
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