John Daly, surgically repaired right elbow good to go and needing a strong finish at Waialae to retain PGA Tour playing privileges, stormed into first-round contention at the Sony Open on Thursday.
The two-time major winner last played a round on tour in July, when he withdrew from the Greenbrier Classic after an opening-round 75. A procedure to fix the injury he said he incurred in May at the Byron Nelson Championship ensued, sidelining the fan favorite for months.
Surgery on elbow next week out for 3-4 months #canthandlepainanymore— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) July 5, 2013
"The arm feels good. The greatest thing is, I can hit three-quarter shots again," Daly told Golfweek.com’s Jim McCabe and Alex Miceli. "I haven’t done that in six years. That was my bread and butter; that was my game."
Daly entered the week in Honolulu on a non-exempt medical extension and has to finish no lower than solo second ($606,800) to retain his status, according to PGATour.com’s Rob Bolton. Failing that, the Loudmouth enthusiast would have to pocket at least $375,873 to earn conditional status, which he could do by closing in a three-way tie for second ($418,133.33) or solo third ($380,000). Anything worse than those scenarios and Daly would compete for the rest of the 2013-2014 season from the Past Champion category.
Carding a 4-under 66 with five birdies and one bogey to kick off his Hawaiian campaign, Daly was a model of consistency. In a seven-way tie for fifth, just three shots back of 18-hole leader Sang-Moon Bae, he found nine fairways and 15 greens in regulation and needed only 29 putts, according to McCabe/Miceli. (Complete 1st round scores here)
Daly has a busy several weeks ahead, telling Golfweek the Sony Open was the first of five straight events he planned to play, finishing up with the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.