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Long Ball Is Daly’s Long Suit : Golf: Alternate who barely got into tournament is the surprise leader after shooting a 67.

WASHINGTON POST

Crooked Stick Golf Club became a stubborn stick in the mud to some of the game’s finest players Friday, so it was left to young John Daly, a brutish blond boomer, to announce his considerable presence at this 73rd PGA Championship.

Daly, 25, a rookie who was the ninth alternate for this event, had a 67, five under par, that left him with a two-round total of 136, eight under. The longest driver on the PGA Tour, he has a one-stroke lead over veteran Bruce Lietzke, who bogeyed the 18th hole after putting his drive into the water for a 69--137.

First-round co-leader Kenny Knox, one of the game’s shortest hitters, is two strokes behind at 138 after shooting a 71.

“I can’t intimidate anybody,” Knox said. “But don’t count me out.”

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Daly had never even seen this brutally long golf course until he arrived here early Thursday morning, after a 7 1/2-hour drive from his home in Memphis, Tenn., on the off chance he might get to play. When South Africa’s Nick Price withdrew because his wife was about to have a baby--Sue Price gave birth to a boy Friday morning--Daly got his chance. He also got Price’s caddie, Jeff Medlin, “who helped me a whole bunch out there.”

Daly warmed up with a 69 on Thursday, and Friday found himself putting six-, seven- and eight-iron shots near the pins on soft greens while most of his competitors were taking out one-, two- and three-irons. With fairways soggy from Thursday’s heavy rain, the course played every bit of its 7,289 yards.

And all around, some of golf’s biggest names were running into big trouble. Jack Nicklaus, for example, found the water bordering the 18th fairway for the second day in a row and his second- consecutive double-bogey six there left him one under at 143 for the tournament. Raymond Floyd hit his ball exactly where playing partner Nicklaus did and double-bogeyed as well for another 143.

Welshman Ian Woosnam, the first-round co-leader with Knox, plunked a shot into the pond at the difficult sixth hole, the second of two double bogeys on his first six holes, although he did recover enough to get back to five under and trail Daly by three strokes at 139.

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But not everyone was stuck in the mud. Craig Stadler, who started the day four under, controlled his temper after hitting water on the 16th for a double-bogey six, saving par at 17 with a 14-foot putt and two-putting for par at 18. His 71 also left him at 139, tied with Woosnam and England’s Nick Faldo, who shot 69 Friday with chip-in birdies at the first and eighth holes that eased the pain of a double-bogey at 16.

And former University of Maryland golf coach Fred Funk had a 69 to go with his first-round 71, leaving him at 140, four strokes off the lead.

Knox managed to get to eight under after 13 holes, but bogeys at Nos. 14 and 16 left him two shots back.

Knox against Daly off the tee is no contest. In fact, Daly against almost anyone in the field seems hardly fair at all. He drives the ball an average of 286 yards, one reason his friends call him “Macho Man,” “Killer” and “Wild Thing.” Although Daly’s drives are long, they are seldom straight. He ranks 155th in accuracy, one reason he has earned only $33,000 this year and has missed the cut in his last two tournaments.

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Friday he was mostly accurate all the way around, with the exception of a six-iron in the water at No. 6 that gave him a double-bogey and left him three under. He also had a birdie at the 441-yard No. 7 with a driver and seven-iron to within three feet, and an eagle at the par-five, 507-yard ninth. He hit a driver and a six-iron to within nine feet there and made the putt.

He had birdies at No. 11, a 10-foot putt; No. 15, a 20-footer, and finished it off at the 445-yard 18th with a driver and seven-iron to within eight feet, and another one-putt on what he described as “the toughest 18th hole I’ve ever played in my life.”

Daly’s playing partner, Billy Andrade, laughed that it pained him to watch the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder walk up ahead by 30 to 40 yards on almost every drive.

“He’s the longest I’ve ever seen,” Andrade said.

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Daly, who dropped out of the University of Arkansas after his sophomore year, says he has always been a long hitter, even in the days when he was teaching himself the game at a nine-hole course in Dardanelle, Ark., “where I fished golf balls out of the ponds. . . . The members were older, so I taught myself and learned by watching Jack Nicklaus on TV. I guess you could call me a natural loner.”

After Friday’s round he said: “I’ll remember this day the rest of my life.”


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