THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- The PGA Tour Champions debut of two-time major champion John Daly at the Insperity Invitational was solid if not spectacular, with a 2-under-par 70 that left him four strokes behind first-round leader Mike Goodes.
Daly, who turned 50 on April 28, fashioned an up-and-down showing at The Woodlands Country Club in a northern Houston suburb, as he played alongside his long-time friends Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen. Daly's round on the 7,028-yard course included four birdies and two bogeys and left him tied for 12th.
"I hit all my lines, which is something I'm not used to doing, you know, because I haven't played in a while," Daly said. "It was a very positive day on all aspects of the game. I hit some really good chip shots. Today, everything was kind of pretty good."
Tournament officials boasted that the galleries are twice as large as for last year's event here, and Daly's status as a crowd favorite certainly contributed to the throng.
The first 1,000 fans through the gates Friday received bobblehead dolls of Daly's likeness and prizes were given throughout the day to patron wearing Daly's bright, colorful and patterned Loudmouth clothing line.
Daly only hit his driver four times in the round and was close to going really low because of his sharp iron and wedge play. It was the putter that hurt him as Daly missed a handful of short birdie opportunities and needed 31 putts on the day.
"I was surprised how good I hit the ball," Daly said after his round. "I hit a lot of fairways, and that 1-iron was a blessing today for me. I mean, even when I didn't hit it good, it was going in the fairway, and I gave myself a lot of chances."
Daly talked this week about how excited he was to even make it to the age of 50 -- he was just joking -- and to have a consistent place to play competitive golf.
"I'm happy just to be able to have kind of a home to play again," Daly said. "It's been pretty tough the last few years not knowing where I'm going to play and waiting by the phone on exemptions and stuff. Now that I have sort of a category here that I can play a few years and get a schedule going and play a lot of golf, it's going to be good for me."
Zoeller has had Daly's back for a while now, through his multiple suspensions on Tour, four divorces, gambling and a pair of trips to alcohol rehab. Daly told reporters this week that Zoeller even made a bet with him to give Daly $150,000 if he made it to 50.
"I told him I'd have to take that bet, but I wouldn't be able to pay him if I was dead," Daly said. "But I'm not going to make him pay. I told him he could give me a free bottle of his vodka."
Fellow Champions Tour player Olin Browne understands the Daly will bring a new level of attention to the Champions Tour.
"I hope he comes out committed the playing on this Tour," Browne said. "We will fit right in with us and has been welcomed with open arms."
Jacobsen, who -- along with Zoeller -- shot 4-over 76 on Friday while paired with Daly, said that Daly is still one the Tours biggest stars. "He's going to have fun out here with us and it's a blast to play with him," Jacobsen said.
Daly said he didn't have any real goals for his first week on the Champions Tour except to get acclimated.
"I'm just going to get comfortable and get used to everything," Daly said. "Once I get a few tournaments under my belt, hopefully there will be some signs of some confidence. I'm not looking to do anything great this week here in Houston -- I'm just happy to be playing and getting a feel for it. You never know what can happen, but the game is not where I want it to be by any means."