Can Daly capitalize on fast start in San Diego?

John Daly during Round 1 of the Farmers Insurance Open.

John Daly during Round 1 of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Phil Mickelson’s 67 or Tiger Woods’ 69? Which score generated the most buzz after Thursday’s opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open?

Maybe neither, because one could argue that anytime John Daly breaks par, it’s noteworthy. But shooting 67? Now that gets the Daly crowd rushing to slip into their Loudmouth pants, but truthfully, it makes a good many take notice because whether you love him or loathe him, Daly remains a constant storyline.

It’s just that one must proceed cautiously if he or she is going to get all excited about Daly’s 67 Thursday. Recent history suggests it doesn’t mean much. (For example, in two trips Down Under at the end of 2010 Daly went 69-77 to miss the cut at the Australian Open, then went 71-83 at the Aussie PGA to do the same.)

Closer to home, you have to go back to 2005 for the last time Daly opened with a 67 and followed that with a score at least as good. The American Express Championship at Harding Park was arguably his last brush with greatness, and Daly’s eventual playoff loss to Woods had the feel of a major championship. Daly went 67-67-67-69 that week, but since then he hardly has built upon fast starts.

In fact, Thursday was just the 10th time since that 2005 AmEx that he started a PGA Tour or European Tour tournament with 67 or better. His highest finish in the previous nine times is a T-23 in Italy in 2008.

Not exactly a good track record for riding momentum, is it?

There were four quick starts by Daly in 2010, perhaps the biggest attention-getter being the 66 at the Open Championship at St. Andrews. But Daly went 76-74-73 and wound up tied for 48th.

He started with a 66 at Colonial, only to fade to 66th, and a 66 Thursday at the Timberlake in Las Vegas morphed into a 73rd-place finish. At the Scottish Open, Daly posted 67 Thursday, then went 73-69-77 to finish 26th.

OK, so it provides a damp blanket for those who are hoping Thursday’s round means good things for Daly this week. But all is not lost. That’s because the last time Daly shot 67 or better at Torrey Pines – way back in 2004 when it was called the Buick Invitational and he had a second-round 66 – he won.

And it sure beats the 79 he started with a year ago, or the 77 he began with in 2008.

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