John Daly’s in the hunt for Sony Open title, PGA Tour playing privileges

Sam Greenwood

John Daly is medically sound and exempt for his first PGA Tour event since the summer, and he's in the hunt early at Waialae.

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.

"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.

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