KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -- John Daly has done a little bit of this and a little bit of that in his on again, off again career. But building his own driver? Leave it to the big man to be hands on with everything these days.
It certainly worked well for him during Thursday's opening round of the $1.8 million Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. He opened with a 7-under 65 in his first tour of duty of the Jack Nicklaus designed course in this elite field of 47 golfers.
He led for about 15 minutes before Marco Dawson eclipsed him with an 8-under 64, but no matter for Daly, he's happy to be right in the thick of this 54-hole event. He is tied for fourth, just one stroke back.
"This one's great," Daly said when asked about the course. "It's in great shape. There's no excuses. I mean, fairways are perfect, the greens are perfect; just a matter of execution for me. Just for me to have this much confidence in the driver, it really sets the tone for confidence in the other stuff.
"You know, for me out there, if I'm hitting it long and straight, I feel like it's an advantage. I hit nothing but wedges into all the par-4s today and that's something big for me, especially when you're hitting them out of the fairway."
Daly is using a new Vertical Groove driver that he swears by. Instead of having horizontal grooves with a big head, Daly is using a smaller head with vertical grooves. This knocks the spin off the golf ball and allows it to fly straighter off the tee.
In Daly's case, the golf ball also travels farther, which is a big advantage in a PGA Tour Champions event as this one. Daly said Vertical Groove sent him the heads and he built the clubs himself.
"It's like all I've got to do is just aim and hit it," Daly said. "No spin. I think I'm hitting it straighter than my putter actually. They sent me about 20 heads and I built them all to kind of where I felt like it needed to be.
"I've got two or three really, really good ones right now that I could really trust. And I got to the point where I build it myself. I have all the stuff to do it. The driver's incredible."
Irwin bests his age
Hale Irwin's love affair with Hawaii has cooled the past few years, but the 71-year-old bested his age Thursday with a solid 69. It was the 17th time Irwin has turned that trick in his illustrious career.
Through the years, Irwin has won $4.5 million in events played in the 50th state, including the United Airlines Hawaiian Open, this tournament and in various skins games on Maui and the Big Island.
Inside the numbers
There were 29 rounds in the 60s during the first day of this winners-only tournament, with 36 golfers finishing under par.
The hardest hole was the par-3 eighth with a scoring average of 3.170. There were only two birdies, 37 pars, six bogeys and two double bogeys. The easiest hole was the par-5 seventh with a scoring average of 4.213. There were five eagles, 27 birdies and 15 pars.
This article is written by Paul Arnett from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.
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