SHANGHAI - Flamboyant former major winner John Daly came back from elbow surgery with a flawless four-under par 68 to lie second after the opening day of the BMW Masters in Shanghai on Thursday.
The big-hitting American had been out for nearly four months and, sporting a scar on his right elbow and trademark colourful trousers, lit up the early play on a day of fierce winds at Lake Malaren Golf Club.
"After not playing a competitive round in about 14, 15 weeks, it felt pretty good," said Daly after his round left him in second place.
Daly is three shots behind another American, Luke Guthrie, who leads the European Tour $7 million event on seven-under par, and one ahead of another fellow countryman Peter Uihlein in third.
"It's been ailing me for probably six years and the last four have been really brutal in this elbow," Daly said.
"To finally get the surgery done... it's nice to be able to pinch chips and three-quarter golf shots again which I haven't been able to do in a long time," said the 47-year-old who won the Open Championship at St Andrews in 1995.
"It's good to be out playing again. Those 14, 15 weeks... it's the longest I've spent in one place I can ever remember."
Early starter Daly compiled a rare bogey-free round on a day when winds strengthened and temperatures dropped across the wide open Lake Malaren layout, with few trees to afford the players protection from the chilly, blustery gusts.
Daly went out in one-under par 35 but really got going on the back nine with birdies at the 10th, 15th and 17th for a back nine in 33 blows and a card of 68.
It was a remarkable performance from the veteran, who had not lifted a club in anger since withdrawing with the elbow injury after the first round of the US PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic on July 3.
"Luckily I got a lot of shots that came out right today. I putted OK. Just hit a lot of greens. It's just one of those days where you just want to survive," Daly added.
Daly's round did not escape the attention of Europe's finest. Graeme McDowell, currently second in the European Tour Race to Dubai standings, after finishing with a 70, said he had noticed the big man's name near the top of the leaderboard.
"Great to see him up there," said McDowell. "He's one of those guys you can't help but pull for. John's a loveable rogue and he always puts bums on seats."
Daly's trademark trousers on the first day were typically garish, and in colours similar to the German flag.
But Daly said that he hadn't deliberately worn them as a homage to the tournament's sponsors.
"Are they?" he said, when the colour similarity was pointed out. "I don't want to disrespect the Germans by any means, but ketchup and mustard, that's what they call these."