ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- It sort of figured that it would be here, at the home of golf, the most traditional of British Open venues, that the modern game's most unconventional player would blast his way into the consciousness of the fans.
That's just what happened yesterday at the Old Course on a bright, blustery and cold afternoon. It is where the new John Daly tamed some old demons and decided to show the world that he is a more mature and patient golfer -- and a genuine threat to win his second major championship.
Daly's round of 71 put him at 6-under-par 138 after two rounds, tied for the lead with Brad Faxon, who shot 67, and Katsuyoshi Tomori, of Japan, who had 68.
This is the first time since early May at the Byron Nelson Classic that Daly has put together back-to-back rounds of subpar golf, but more important than what he did was the way he did it.
He double-bogeyed a par-5 hole early in the round, but rather than lose his composure and his bearings, he fought back into the lead.
"It's the second straight day I've been able to keep my patience," said Daly, who is one stroke ahead of a group of six players that includes Ben Crenshaw (72), Mark Brooks (69), Constantino Rocca (70), John Cook (70), Ernie Els (68) and Corey Pavin (70).
"On this kind of golf course, things are going to happen and you've just got to forget them and keep on going."
Normally, referring to Daly as patient is like calling Pavin a long hitter. Well, guess what? Pavin drove the green at the 356-yard 18th hole -- "I don't want anybody calling me a short hitter again," he said, only half joking -- and Daly was Mr. Manners after his drive found the bunker at the fifth hole, he left a shot in, hit one out sideways and made double.
If Daly is to somehow keep things going until Sunday, that's the attitude he'll need.
This is anybody's championship at the moment. There are 37 players under par and within five strokes of the lead. With the 10-stroke rule in effect, 103 players made the cut of 4-over-par 148.
That group included Jack Nicklaus, who fought his way back from an opening round of 78 -- which featured a 10 at the 14th hole -- with a round of 70 yesterday. Nicklaus made a remarkable recovery after the quintuple-bogey. He played his last 22 holes in four under.
Els could have taken the lead alone had he played par golf from No. 14, where he got to 7-under with a birdie. But bogeys at the 15th and 17th left him at 5-under and extremely irritated. Initially, he declined to discuss his round.
"After leaving the course, I was quite annoyed," Els said. "This could have been one of my great rounds, comparable to my third round at Oakmont last year in the U.S. Open." He shot 66 in that round.
As always, the 17th hole took its toll. Bill Glasson was tied for the lead when he stepped up to the tee. He hit a ball out of bounds, hooked his next into the rough, topped one, hit his next into the bunker short of the green, hit that to the front edge and two-putted for eight.
While all this was going on, Daly was eating up -- not to mention eating his way around -- the Old Course. He was feeling a little hungry on the eighth tee, so he gobbled up four doughnuts. Two holes later, he inhaled a chocolate chip muffin.
Thus bolstered, he did what you have to do to succeed at St. Andrews. He "caned the loop," or at least what was left of it.
The loop is the name the locals use for the seventh through the 11th holes. Daly killed his drive at No. 10, a 342-yard hole, leaving the ball 20 yards short of the green. He birdied the hole. He hit a 5-iron to 30 feet at the 172-yard 11th and made that, and then drove the green at the 316-yard 12th. With a 1-iron.
"I'm hitting the ball better than I have in I don't know when," Daly said.
Two years ago, when he first tried the British Open, Daly didn't like it. Muirfield didn't suit him. There were too many holes where the driver was useless, too many that called for half-shots and knockdowns.
He finished 75th, but he got a couple of words of encouragement from Gary Player, who just made the cut this week, at the age of 59, in his 40th British Open.
"Just you wait until you get to St. Andrews in two years," Player said then. "You'll love it."
He's here, and he does.
The man they called "Wild Thing" has been anything but for two days. Whether that continues is the most compelling question in what promises to be a fascinating final 36.
The leaders . . .
+ Katsuyoshi Tomori 70-68-138
John Daly 67-71-138Brad Faxon 71-67-138
, . . . and selected followers
Ben Crenshaw 67-72-139
Corey Pavin 69-70-139
Ernie Els 71-68-139
Payne Stewart 72-68-140
Nick Faldo 74-67-141
M. Calcavecchia 71-72-143
Tom Watson 67-76-143
Mark O'Meara 72-72-144
Nick Price 70-74-144
Gary Player 71-73-144
J. M. Olazabal 72-72-144
a-Tiger Woods 74-71-145