`Mild Thing' John Daly Among Leaders in First Round of Golf's British Open

John Daly found himself in a unfamiliar place after a 6-under-par 66 put him among the leaders in the first round of the British Open at St. Andrews.

“I think this is the first time I’ve seen the media center at the British Open since 1995,” Daly said at a news conference. “It’s a good feeling.”

Daly recorded his best round at the golf tournament since winning at St. Andrews 15 years ago. He began with two birdies and reached 7-under before a bogey on the par-4 17th hole.

He’s tied for second place, three shots behind Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who matched the tournament record with a 63 today.

Daly said St. Andrews is a special place for him and his favorite course. Always a crowd-pleaser, his supporters grew as the round went on, yelling encouragement with each long drive and putt made.

A huge American flag hung out the window of a house alongside the 18th hole and two men held signs saying “John Daly Living Legend” and “John Daly for President.”

“He’s a role model,” one of them shouted as the 44-year- old made his way to the final green.

Daly hasn’t always been the perfect role model during his career. Known as a “Wild Thing,” he’s battled injuries, alcohol and weight problems, walked off courses during tournaments and been suspended numerous times by the PGA Tour.

In recent years he’s become more recognized for the outlandish pants he wears on the course than for results. He said he’s changing his lifestyle by giving up drinking and having gastric band surgery in February 2009.

Daly said he hasn’t had a drink since he had the band put in and has weighed between 190 and 195 pounds since October. In his eyes that makes him more of a “Mild Thing” these days.

“I’m 44 years old,” he said. “I’ve never run from my mistakes. You know, it’s how you come back. For me, I’m on a comeback.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch at St. Andrews through the London sports desk at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

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