(Charlie Riedel ~ Associated Press)
First at the slot machines.
Then at Southern Hills.
Neither figured to be the smart choice at the PGA Championship. Instead of practicing on a course he had not see in 13 years, Daly chose to gamble at Cherokee Casino. Then he really rolled the dice by hitting driver at every opportunity on a track that demands precision.
Against all odds, it worked.
Drenched in sweat and drowned by cheers, the two-time major champion walked off the 18th green Thursday with a 3-under 67 that left him two shots behind Graeme Storm, another unlikely star on a day rife with surprises.
Storm, who was washing trays at cake factory in England five years ago, was the only player who made it around Southern Hills without a bogey on his way to a 65 that left him looking down a leaderboard to find some of the usual suspects.
"The longer you stay ahead of Tiger Woods, the better," Storm said.
Woods, the defending PGA champion trying to make sure he doesn't end the year without a major, birdied three of his first six holes before he ran out of improbable par saves and settled for a 71.
Daly didn't bother with a practice round the previous three days because of the oppressive heat, where temperatures climbed past 100 in the opening round. While some guys went through a liter of water every two holes, Daly loaded up on caffeine and cigarettes.
Not long after his best round at the PGA Championship in 10 years, it was all a blur.
"I can't remember, to tell you the truth," Daly said when asked about his four birdies. "Only had three heat strokes out there."
No one else could believe it.
"Must be from all of the practice rounds he played here," Woods said.
Daly had not played Southern Hills since he missed the cut at the 1994 PGA Championship. Best he can recall, only one other time has he showed up at the first round of a major without a practice round. That would be the 1991 PGA Championship, when he was the ninth alternate who drove through the night to Crooked Stick in Indiana. And then he won.
Only a dozen players managed to break par.
Stephen Ames birdied his last three holes for a 68, putting him with Arron Oberholser and Woody Austin. The group at 69 included British Open champion Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who made seven birdies.