Slim, Sober Daly Tied For PGA Lead

MAMARONECK, New York -- Four months ago, John Daly was in the back of an ambulance, fearing for his life after yet another descent into alcoholism ended in a drunken rage in a Florida hotel room. On Thursday, he was in control of his life and his golf game at the PGA Championship.

A slimmer and sober Daly shook his head in calm amazement as he reflected on his record-tying 66 at Winged Foot Golf Club, searching for the words to explain his struggles on and off the course.

"I'm always scared what's going to happen next,'' Daly, who burst on the scene when he won the 1991 PGA Championship at age 25, said after his 4-under-par round tied for the first-round lead with Davis Love III.

On a day when Winged Foot played as easy as it gets, Robert Allenby bogeyed the last hole and was at 67, while two strokes back at 68 was a group that included Greg Norman, Justin Leonard, Tom Kite and Paul Azinger.

Phil Mickelson, Lee Janzen, Mark O'Meara, Tom Lehman and Jim Furyk were among another large group at 1-under-par 69.

Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and David Duval were among those at even-par 70.

But only Love could match Daly, who combined his awesome power with some wise club selection, brilliant iron play and steady putting to close with three consecutive birdies on very difficult holes to surge into the lead.

Through it all, Daly walked along with eyes fixed ahead, only casually acknowledging the gallery.

He shot a 31 on the back nine and a 66 that matched the competitive record at Winged Foot set by Fuzzy Zoeller in the second round of the 1984 U.S. Open.

Daly, 31, walked off the course after nine holes in the second round of the U.S. Open at Congressional in June without bothering to tell his playing partners or caddie, but he seemed determined to turn his life around this time.

Daly, who started drinking when he was 8 years old, ended up in alcohol rehabilitation in 1993 and was suspended the PGA Tour officially once and unofficially another time for rowdy behavior.

He won the British Open in 1995 -- sober -- but started drinking again last summer and finally lost control in March at the Players Championship.