TULSA, Okla. - Only one thing could make people stop talking about the blistering, August heat here at the 89th PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Something like John Daly near the top of the leaderboard.
Daly temporarily tamed his demons for Thursday's opening round of the season's last major, firing a 3-under-par 67 on a day when sweat-drenched fans jostled for shade here, and for a while everyone forgot about heat indexes and "excessive heat warnings."
But that didn't last. Little known Graeme Storm overtook Daly late in the round, firing an even-more-impressive 65 to get to 5-under and lead the tournament.
Three players - Aaron Oberholser, Woody Austin and Stephen Ames - are tied at 2-under. Tiger Woods, who led the tournament early in the day after getting off to a blistering start (3 birdies in his first six holes) struggled on his back nine, shooting a 1-over 71.
"It was just one of those rounds, really, when I never really thought about anything," Storm told reporters. "I just kept on doing the things that I was trying to do, which was just enjoy myself. I did get off to a fast start."
For a while Thursday, Daly looked like the person everyone wants him to be - on the golf course, anyway.
True to form, Daly did it his way and defied the experts. Daly simply overpowered a course everyone said could only be conquered only through finesse.
Time after time, the pros stepped up to the tee and hit long irons or fairway woods, working their way around the doglegs. Time after time, Daly stepped up to the tee and pulled out the driver - the booming club that's made him a fan favorite.
"I didn't know what else to do," shrugged Daly afterward, his shirt untucked and a trademark Diet Coke in hand.
That might be because Daly rejected the idea of actually practicing at Southern Hills, same as he did when he won the 1991 PGA at Crooked Stick.
The round gave Daly exactly what he needed, and what he's lacked this year.
"To play well, you have to have confidence, and I've had none," said Daly, who's playing quite a bit these days under sponsors' exemptions. "This has been a very, very big confidence boost for me."
Daly's one-day performance surprised a lot of people.
"It's amazing," said Ernie Els. "This golf course doesn't suit his golf game at all and it's nice to see him up there at the top of the leaderboard."
Storm took a more conventional route on his round, staying in the fairway and avoiding trouble. Storm is barely a blip on the radar here in the U.S., though he did win this year's French Open on the European PGA Tour.
He's struggled on the European Tour. In 2002, in debt and out of golf, Storm worked in a cake factory for a couple months, trying to earn enough money to finance his drooping golf career.
"It was maybe a kick in the backside that I needed," he said. "I'm not the first one to struggle."
The year's deepest field battled the heat as well as a course that's rather short by their standards - the par-70 layout measures 7,131 yards - but one that throws narrow, tree-lined fairways, rolling terrain, steep, pitched greens and nasty, two-inch thick, Bermuda rough at you.
Miss the fairways here, and you pay the price.
"I know the PGA says the rough is playable, but it's difficult," said Oberholser. "I have yet to hit the green, in the practice rounds or today, from the rough."
August 10, 2007
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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