Daly just off lead in Scottish Open, thanks to brilliant ball-striking

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John Daly stood out Thursday, for his score as much as for his wardrobe.
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PA Sport

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John Daly has put himself into contention for a $750,000 victory at the Barclays Scottish Open -- and how he needs it.

The former British Open champion, who next week returns to the scene of his 1995 triumph at St. Andrews, currently faces a demand for nearly $1 million in unpaid taxes at home.

Now ranked 499th in the world, he described his ball-striking over the first eight holes at Loch Lomond Thursday as his best ever as he began with a 4-under-par 67.

Daly, two behind leader Darren Clarke overnight, hasn’t had a top-20 finish since he was runner-up at the Italian Open 14 months ago, and is no longer a full PGA Tour card-holder.

"It's a struggle, but I'm not broke," said the American, who reckons that losing sponsorship at the end of 2007 cost him more than $6 million. "But I'm only 44 and I still feel there's a lot of golf left. I still feel I have the talent and can still win.

"I'm very competitive. I feel inside I don't have a lot to prove to anybody but myself,” he added. "Mine is not a Tiger Woods career by any means, but it's two majors and a few wins. I'm in the top 20 of anybody who's played the game."

Daly, who burst to fame with his out-of-the-blue PGA Championship victory in 1991, beat Costantino Rocca in a playoff at St. Andrews 15 years ago, but his last tournament success was in 2004.

He has had as many headlines over the past two decades for what has happened off the course as on it -- probably more with a PGA Tour disciplinary file that runs to 456 pages. But he has shown his determination to get his life as well as his golf back into shape by gastric band surgery last year.

He did have to pull out of two events earlier this year because of a rib injury and sciatic pains, but added: "This is the fifth tournament I've been healthy in. I was real solid. I had a couple of gimme birdies, which always helps, and I made a great up and down at the last.

"It was a nice start for me,” he summarized. “I've not been getting off to many lately."