ORLANDO, Fla., March 14 (UPI) -- A month before The Masters, a handful of the world's best players, including Tiger Woods, Thursday put themselves in contention during the first round of the Bay Hill Invitational.
Among the elite players in the world, Woods has plenty of company as Sergio Garcia of Spain (68), Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh of Fiji (69), South Africans Ernie Els (70) and Retief Goosen, and David Duval (71) all were within four shots.
Woods was followed by hordes of fans, but in the group just behind was Daly, whose immense drives make him a crowd favorite.
"It was kind of cool because the gallery kind of watched both of us, both groups all day," said Daly, winless on the PGA Tour since the 1995 British Open but who recorded a victory in Europe last season.
Woods is winless since the NEC Invitational last August, a slump to some but just a bump in the road to him. He missed half of the greens Thursday, but but played bogey free.
"It was nice to hit some good, solid putts that seemed to go in," said Woods, who next month will defend his Masters title. "Like I said, I hit the ball really well. When I made a mistake, my short game bailed me out."
Woods birdied four of the first six holes at the Bay Hill Golf Club before sputtering on the back nine. He made a 12-foot putt at the second hole, a seven-footer at the fourth and an 18-footer at the fifth before tapping in at No. 6.
Although he putted a few times from the fringe, Woods needed only 21 official putts during the round, having little trouble with firm greens that were reshaped for this year's event.
"I've always liked greens when they are more firm," he said. "I think it's more of a challenge and it favors guys who, obviously, hit the ball high.
"And on top of that, I like seeing the ball move on the greens a little bit, instead of just backing up. It's frustrating when you hit 4-irons and 5-irons and see them back up 10 feet. That's not normal."
Daly has good vibes again after a period marred by alcohol and weight problems. He already has a pair of top-five finishes this season after totaling two the previous three years.
A two-time major winner, Daly played his first 12 holes in 5-under before bogeying the 13th and 14th. But he eagled the par-5 16th and finished with two pars to share the lead.
"It was a solid round," said Daly, who has gone to a fade shot rather than a natural draw."
"Through all of the up and downs, he and Fuzz (Fuzzy Zoeller) were always ones to call," Daly said. "It's really cool for a veteran to do that for a younger guy, so I've always been pretty good friends with him.
"But I'm dying to see the boat. It's like four stories. It's incredible."
This marks the second straight year at least five players tied for the lead after the opening round.