British OpenJuly 15, 2010

Daly Off To Hot Start

John Daly, who won the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews, shot an opening-round 66 to become an unlikely early leader

Daly birdied seven of his first 11 holes Thursday.

Daly birdied seven of his first 11 holes Thursday.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) -- Fifteen years after his stunning win at the Old Course, John Daly was off to another rousing start at the British Open.

The mercurial American birdied seven of the first 11 holes Thursday to move atop the leaderboard, taking advantage of benign conditions that threatened to turn worse at any moment. He finished with a six-under 66.

Daly birdied the first two holes, had another at the sixth and ripped off four consecutive birdies starting at No. 8 before the streak ended with a 4-footer than lipped out at the 12th.

Daly, whose personal woes have long overshadowed his occasional golfing successes, also made quite an impression with his attire. He was playing in purple paisley paints, a light blue sweater and a pink shirt.

Dressed a bit more conservatively in a raspberry-colored shirt and black rain pants, Tiger Woods teed off at mid-morning and received an enthusiastic welcome from fans who seemed more interested in whether he can become the first player to win three Open titles at St. Andrews than what's going on in his personal life.

The world's top-ranked player romped to dominating wins in 2000 and 2005, and he's again a heavy favorite again. But Woods has yet to win since returning in April from a five-month layoff stemming from the sex scandal.

Going with an iron, he knocked his first shot safely down the left side of the fairway and wound up with a par. He birdied the second hole and just missed another at No. 3, leaving his putt hanging on the lip of the cup.

As always at the British Open, the weather figured to be the biggest factor.

Daly was among those taking advantage of the favorable conditions early on. Fog hung over the course, but there was little wind and just a few sprinkles. Germany's Marcel Siem was at 5 under through 13 holes, while John Senden of Australia and Simon Dyson of England were both at 4 under.

Paul Lawrie hit the opening tee shot at 6:30 a.m. under threatening skies. Light rain started falling about an hour later, and a storm was forecast to hit before noon. As long as it held off, the players were able to take aim at the Old Course with relative abandon.

One player off to a rough start was two-time champion Padraig Harrington. His second shot plopped into the famous Swilcan Burn, leaving him with a double-bogey, though the Irishman did show off his athleticism by leaping over the creek to get a look at the putting green after taking his penalty drop.

Daly has been dogged by alcohol problems, failed marriages, financial woes and battles with weight, but the 44-year-old has managed to occasionally show off his considerable golf skills at the most opportune times.

He won the 1991 PGA Championship as an unknown alternate, then captured the '95 Open at St. Andrews in a memorable playoff with Costantino Rocca. Now, six years removed from his last win and after threatening to quit last season, he showed signs of putting together another unlikely performance.

Woods teed off in a group that included English favorite Justin Rose, who has won two of his last three PGA Tour events and is trying to become the first British golfer to win the Open since Lawrie.

Woods has 14 major titles, just four off the career record held by Jack Nicklaus.

Playing in the next group: Harrington, looking for his first sanctioned tournament win since capturing a third major title at the 2008 PGA Championship, and 60-year-old Tom Watson, who nearly became golf's oldest major winner at Turnberry a year ago.

Watson would have claimed the claret jug for the sixth time if he had made an 8-foot putt on the final hole of regulation. After missing, he lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.

The defending champion was playing the first two rounds with Ernie Els of South Africa and Ian Poulter of England.

Woods has been atop the world rankings for more than five years, but Phil Mickelson can take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career if he wins this week. Lefty captured his third Masters title in April, contended at the U.S. Open and believes his long-hitting game sets up well for the Old Course.

Mickelson had an afternoon tee tie.