The John Daly who reached a 573-yard hole in two with a seven-iron and showed a soft touch around the greens in the first round of the Honda Classic in Coral Springs, Fla., is not the John Daly of old.
He says he's even better.
"All in all, I'm hitting the ball well. But mentally and physically put together, this is the best I've ever done," Daly said Thursday after his four-under 68 left him one stroke behind Jeff Maggert.
It was the 17th time in his last 18 rounds that Daly has shot par or better, and while he hasn't won since the 1995 British Open, he keeps showing signs he's not far off.
"I'm showing up knowing I have a chance to win," Daly said.
That's a feeling Maggert has known during a career filled with plenty of close calls but only one PGA Tour victory.
On Thursday, Maggert got a rare soft bounce on a hard, fast course, holing a seven-iron for an eagle in a round of 67 to lead Daly and Stewart Cink by one.
Colin Montgomerie, winless in 45 appearances on the PGA Tour after missing the cut at Doral last week, birdied two of the last three holes and joined Steve Pate at 69.
The group at 70 included Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh and defending champion Stuart Appleby.
"I'm hungry for victories," said Maggert, who has finished in the top three 17 times in seven full seasons on tour, his only victory coming in the 1993 Disney Classic.
"I'm trying to stay patient, but when you've been out here eight years, it's tough to do that," he said. "To have only one win is frankly disappointing. It bugs me."
Maggert wasn't disappointed on the 460-yard sixth hole of the TPC at Heron Bay. He had 175 yards to a pin tucked closed to a bunker, but his high seven-iron landed softly on the fringe and steamrollered into the cup.
He two-putted for birdie on Nos. 9 and 14, par-fives with the wind at his back, and added a birdie on the 534-yard 16th hole by getting up and down from a greenside bunker.
Daly made the par-fives look even easier. He reached the green in two at the 573-yard 14th with a driver and a seven-iron for a two-putt birdie from 20 feet, then used a driver and seven-iron again on No. 16 to get within 12 feet for another routine birdie.
Meg Mallon provided further evidence of her determination to rebound from a subpar 1997, shooting a six-under 66 to take the first-round lead in the Welch's-Circle K Championship in Tucson.
Aiming at the pin all day, Mallon birdied the last two holes to forge one shot ahead of group of six that included Karrie Webb.
Sixty-five players shot 71 or under as the 6,222-yard Randolph Park North municipal course played soft after weeks of rain.
"I felt like I could hit the green, and it wouldn't bounce over," Mallon said. "The course is in great shape, better than the last three years we've played here."
Mallon dropped to 31st last season, with second place her best finish. It was her worst performance on the money list since 1989.
Seve Ballesteros birdied the first hole, then was blown away by the desert wind, falling 21 strokes behind leader Des Smyth of Ireland when play was suspended in the first round of the Moroccan Open in Agadir.
Seventy players failed to complete the round because of blowing sand across the greens, but Smyth was one of the fortunate few who played in the calm of the morning, and he shot an eight-under 64.
Ballesteros, who played one stretch of three holes seven over par, was 13 over through 12 holes when play was suspended.