Said the four-times divorced Daly, who has done regular battle with the vices of drink, sloth, gambling and gluttony, to name a few, "I don't think I'm that far [from playing well]. I don't think any of us are who are fighting to get our cards or fighting to win. I just believe if I keep telling myself I'll get to where I want to be instead of being negative."
Where exactly does the two-time major winner wish to be at this stage of life? "I want to be here, playing our tour. I want to be like everybody else in the top 50 and getting that free money in the World Golf Championships and be in all the majors and getting sponsors — big, big sponsors — and stuff like that."
Currently, he reps a company that manufactures golf pants that violate most local noise ordinances. Other sponsors adorning him included a company that makes commercial mowers and a Chevy dealership.
Daly was not even the fattest guy on the leaderboard, thanks both to the lapband surgery he had in 2009 and the 6-under 66 shot by hefty Swede Carl Pettersson. The first-round PGA Championship leader has tried to lose weight — dropping 30 pounds in 2009. But, as he succinctly put it, "My golf game sucked, and I put the weight back on."
Born in Gothenburg, Pettersson may nonetheless have something of a home-area advantage. He has grown as Carolina as vinegary barbeque. He went to North Carolina State, still lives in Raleigh and is the defending champion of the PGA Tour Hilton Head stop. This was the first time he broke 70 in 21 PGA Championship rounds.
Pettersson and Daly were two of 44 players who went south of par Thursday (25 of them coming from the pre-noon tee times, before the wind inevitably picked up). So much for the "hardest course in America" designation laid on Kiawah's Ocean Course by Golf Digest. But no course relying so heavily on prevailing winds could fairly defend itself when the breeze momentarily went pfffft.
"We knew when we woke up this morning that today was going to be a day you had to go out and get one [a low round]," said Gerry Woodland, tied for second at 5 under.
In all there were 24 players in the 60s and within three shots of Pettersson's lead. Not among that number was Phil Mickelson, who shot an opening-round 73 while hitting seemingly every swale and waste area that Pete Dye inflicted upon this land.
Among the more prominent members chasing Pettersson were last year's PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley (68), world No. 3 Rory McIlroy (67), fellow colorful Irishman Graeme McDowell (68), British Open meltdown victim Adam Scott (68) and former Georgia Tech player Cameron Tringale (69).
Also in that group lurked Tiger Woods, who managed a 69 despite taking little advantage of the vulnerable par-5s. He played them in 1 under, while, in contrast, Daly played the four in 4 under.
It is indeed a rare day when the wind doesn't blow on Kiawah and when Daly dominates the conversation. Woods, too, was caught up in the reverie, remembering being only 13 and playing with Daly for the first time. That day, Woods said, Daly hit a ball so hard he actually knocked it out of round.
"I have always been a John Daly fan and friend," Woods said. Yes, someone spending this week on a yacht can also feel kinship with the Daly revival.