Two crowd favorites – colorful, long-hitting John Daly and Poplarville native Glen Day – put themselves in contention Friday after the opening round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak Golf Club.
Day, who currently lives in Little Rock, Ark., shot a 4-under 68, with five birdies and one bogey, and is two strokes off the lead.
Daly shot a 3-under 69, with three birdies and no bogeys on the scorecard. He is three strokes off the lead.
“The old saying is you can’t win it on the first day but you can lose it,’’ Day said. “We haven’t lost anything. We still have a chance.’’
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Actually, more than a chance.
Joe Durant shot a 6-under 66 for the tournament lead after Day 1, which means both Daly and Day are well-positioned to contend Saturdayand Sunday.
Both golfers are in search for their first wins on the PGA Tour Champions.
“I hit the ball really, really well today and put myself in great position,’’ said the 5-foot-11, 215-pound Daly, who actually had to throttle back and hit an iron off the tee on No. 18. “I made a couple of putts on the front nine – which was my back (nine) – but I made nothing on my back nine. It could have been really good. It’s been that way the last few years – I have to get my putter going.
“I chipped it good, just didn’t make anything putting. I made one birdie on the par 5s and hit three of them in two (strokes). So I three-putted twice. But I love the way I’m hitting.
“It (the course) suits my game perfect from the tips but when you move the tees up, I don’t know what to hit. I didn’t know what to hit off 9, what to hit off 18.’’
Daly, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., likes what he sees after his first 18 holes of competition at Fallen Oak.
“I’ve come down here before and stopped at the casinos and gambled a little bit,’’ Daly said. “I just never had time to come to Fallen Oak and play. Among the courses we play on the Champions Tour, this is in the Top 3. This is one of the best courses on the Champions Tour.’’
Daly birdied No. 18, which was his ninth hole on Friday since he started on the back nine. Then he birdied No. 1 and No. 3. He almost birdied No. 9 after witnessing two successful dramatic long putts by fellow golfers John Huston and Scott Verplank.
Day came close to making aces twice during his round – on No. 17 and No. 13.
“I’ve had 18 aces, 16 in competition,’’ Day said. “On 17, you couldn’t see (the ball) the way the sun was shining on the green. I guess it had a chance because it finished behind the hole. On 13, I saw it was a good shot – it was right on line – and it came up a little short. I’ll take kick-ins all day long.’’
Day, who started on the front nine, birdied Nos. 1, 13, 14, 17 and 18. His lone bogey came on No. 10.
“I’m hitting the ball well and you have to out here,’’ the 51-year-old Day said. “This is a great golf course. I didn’t make a lot of putts but I felt like I putted really, really well.
“Fortunately out here today, I hit it in gimme range a couple of times. The only putt I really made was on 18. I made a 6-footer on 1 and a 15-footer on 18. I’m pleased with the way I started this week.’’