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Daly puts on show

John Daly shot 3-under-par 67 in the first round Thursday and is two shots behind Graeme Storm at the PGA Championship.Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
John Daly shot 3-under-par 67 in the first round Thursday and is two shots behind Graeme Storm at the PGA Championship.Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Mark Herrmann Newsday

TULSA, Okla. – This time, John Daly’s round was smoking, too. He turned the scorched first round of the PGA Championship into the Daly show, showing yet again that his personal approach to the book of convention wisdom goes this way, “Grip it and rip it.”

He shot 3-under-par 67 at Southern Hills, trailing unlikely leader Graeme Storm by two shots, after having prepared with his own special form of exercise: pulling the lever on slot machines at Cherokee Casino. “Didn’t play a practice round this week because it was too hot,” he said.

And the lifelong Arkansas resident dealt with the 100-plus temperature Thursday in a distinctly Daly way: “I light up a cigarette and drink some caffeine and it actually works. I’m used to it, let’s put it that way.”

Instead of playing the percentages on the course’s many tricky doglegs, as Tiger Woods did in his spotty 71, Daly – between puffs – kept taking out his driver. Grip it and rip it, indeed. Let’s put it this way about the 1991 PGA champion, and remember how he was one of the most unlikely major champions: He sure is different. Right down to eschewing the determined attitude that has swept through the tour since Woods started getting to the course at dawn on practice days.

“I’m in better shape than Tiger,” Daly said. When the laughter died down, Daly added, “I don’t know how to answer it. I’ve done it this way all my life. I think everybody is a little different.”

He is so different that the big news on the golf grapevine wasn’t about how Daly finished, but that he finished. “There were odds with all the caddies and players this week on who would fall first, me or my caddie,” he said. “We made it. We made 18 holes.”

Next, he has to overtake Storm, who isn’t your run of the mill pro, either. When the Englishman won the French Open last month, he said he was “bogsmacked” by the way he played. That’s because he had been so down on his game and short of cash in December 2002 that he took a job in a cake factory so he could afford Christmas presents.

No, he didn’t even get to bake the cakes. “I was outside cleaning the trays,” he said after his flawless 65. “I was just being a normal person, doing an everyday job. Maybe I needed a taste of reality.”

Storm got a taste of the top, featuring a near hole-in-one on the par-3 11th (his second hole). The 6-inch birdie putt sent him to 2 under and put him on his way. That really took the cake, unlike the 10 that U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera made with two shots out of bounds and one in the lake on the par-3 sixth.

Of course, it is still very early. “Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, people like that are going to be there come Sunday,” Storm said. “The longer you stay ahead of Tiger Woods, the better.”

Woods started sharply, 3 under through six holes, but missed some putts he could have made and then had some loose swings on his second nine. Mickelson also let a hot start turn into a loopy 73.

In other words – and you don’t hear this every day – neither was as consistent as Daly. The latter hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and made only one bogey.

If only his golf could be like that more often. If only his life could be more like that more often. He has become best known for his gambling, drinking and marital problems (showing up once this year at a tournament with a badly scratched face, saying his wife had attacked him).

He did admit to having played on the casino’s golf course, where he worked on taking the club back more on an outside plane. As for why he hasn’t done well for years, he was at a loss. “It hasn’t been a lot of bad, bad shots,” he said, adding that “hopefully” yesterday will help his confidence. He is not so sure.

When he was asked why Thursday was much better than the usual Daly grind, he said, “I have no idea.”

“Well, it must be from all of the practice rounds he played here,” Wood said.

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