For two-time major champion John Daly, the past two months have been a whirlwind of emotions.
Daly, who announced he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in September, turned in a stellar opening performance on Friday at the PGA Tour Champions' TimberTech Championship in Boca Raton, tying for first with Jim Furyk at 8-under-par 64 in the first round.
Daly and Furyk lead four players at the Old Course at Broken Sound by one stroke heading into the second round of the tournament previously called the Oasis Championship, the Boca Raton Championship and Allianz Championship.
Daly, 54, underwent a procedure to remove the cancer in September and eight days of chemotherapy before getting back on the greens.
“I just hit it really good,” Daly said after his opening round. "The bad drives that I did hit, I could find it, hit it. I putted really, really good... I haven’t done that in a long time.
“Just trying to keep it off my mind,” Daly said about the cancer. “I’ve got about another, I guess about another month before I’ve got to do it again. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and got to keep living. I can’t stop. The more busy I stay, the better I am.”
Not only did he sink eight birdies, Daly also drained an eagle on the 18th hole to gain a share of the lead.
Debuting on the Champions tour back in 2016 after many years as a fan favorite on the PGA Tour, Daly — the shocking 1991 PGA Championship winner after being a ninth alternate, and then the 1995 British Open champ — has won only one Champions tour tournament, the 2017 Insperity Invitational.
Continuing his rookie success, Furyk strung together another strong first round by recording birdies on nine of his 18 holes.
In the four events he’s played, Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open, has finished on top of the leaderboard twice, winning The Ally Challenge and the PURE Insurance Championship.
“The early part of the round I hit the ball really solid,” Furyk said. “I had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of short birdie putts, five birdies through the first eight holes. Then that kind of 9, 10, 11, 12 stretch, not my best golf. But, kind of escaped with some pars.”
Duffy Waldorf, Scott Parel, Boca Raton’s Bernhard Langer and Robert Karlsson are all tied for second at 7 under on the par-72 course, which was devoid of spectators in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cornovirus shutdowns also pushed the tournament, usually in February or March, back much further in the year.
Most recently placing 76th in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic earlier in October, Waldorf has yet to place within the top five this season.
In contrast to Waldorf, Parel is continuing his strong season with him coming into the tournament holding the No. 3 position in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
Parel, who is behind four-time major winner Ernie Els and Langer in the standings, has five top-10 finishes this season along with a victory at the Chubb Classic.
Returning to The Old Course at Broken Sound with the hopes of raising his third trophy, Langer became the first player to win the tournament twice (2019, 2010) last year.
Langer has played well so far this season with him placing 10 times within the top 10 and winning the Cologuard Classic.
“It’s important if you want to be in the hunt,” the two-time Masters champ said. “You’d better get off to a good start. There’s so many good players on this tour that you can’t have a bad day. You’ve got to be there knocking on the door or be within range if you want to have a chance to lift the trophy on Sunday.”
Only finishing better than 10th one time this season, Karlsson is also in the pack to potentially win his first tournament event.
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