Older, wiser Daly learns Colonial's ways

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A younger John Daly never had success trying to overpower Colonial Country Club.

But an older, slimmer and perhaps wiser Daly hit 11 of 14 fairways on his way to a 4-under 66 in Thursday's opening round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

"It wasn't that I didn't like the course," said Daly, who is playing here for the first time since 1999. "I was just so aggressive. When I didn't know what club to hit off the tee, I hit driver."

In his "grip it and rip it" days, Daly failed to make a cut in four Colonial appearances, averaging 75 for seven rounds.

Different story for Daly at age 44. He shot his lowest round at Colonial by five shots and played bogey-free for the first time on Tour since the second round of the 2008 Bob Hope Classic.

"It was a good ball-striking day," said Daly, who wore blue-and-white checked trousers in honor of the Dallas Cowboys. "I managed the course well."

Because of physical ailments, Daly said he has made swing changes that keep him on his left side.

"As long as I keep working the left side, hopefully I can play three more rounds like that," he said.

So far this year, Daly has played four rounds in only three of nine tournaments. He missed the cut in his first three and withdrew due to ailments in his last two, Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April and the Valero Texas Open two weeks ago.

Daly's best finish this year is a tie for 24th at the Puerto Rico Open. He is No. 202 on the money list at $56,486.

Hearing problems don't slow Bohn: Following his 7-under 63 in the first round, Jason Bohn requested that interview questions come from his right side because he was unable to hear out of his left ear.

Bohn, who is tied for the lead with Jeff Overton and Blake Adams, said he had seen a doctor Wednesday for a lingering cold and woke up at 1 a.m. Thursday with pain in his left ear.

The pain subsided, but he was not able to hear from that ear throughout his round. He apologized to his playing partners, Kenny Perry and Sean O'Hair, at the start of the round in case he didn't hear them.

"In a way, it might have helped me because I poured my energy into every shot," said Bohn, 37. "My mind didn't wander. I don't feel awful, it's just everything sounds like 'wa-wa-wa.'"

Bohn could have tied the course record of 61 with a birdie on No. 18. Instead, his approach shot from the middle of the fairway went over the green and he recorded his only bogey of the round.

Bohn said rolled in four birdie putts of over 10 feet in the first eight holes, then capped a 5-under side with a 138-yard approach to six feet on No. 9 that led to a birdie.

Overton stays hot: Jeff Overton, who tied for second at the HP Byron Nelson Championship last week, picked up where he left off last week with a 7-under 63 and a share of the lead.

After a benign seven pars to open his round, Overton birdied six holes on the second nine for a 29.

Overton said it was an 8-foot par putt on No. 7 that jump-started his round. On the back nine, his birdie putts were from distances of 25, 7, 16, 16, 21 and 17 feet.

Struggles for Lefty: On a leaderboard loaded with sub-par scores, Phil Mickelson shot a 1-over 71.

"I played the first four holes well," said Mickelson, "I thought it was going to be a good day. There was no wind. I just started hitting the ball terrible. I hit it sideways off the tee. I hit terrible iron shots. Fortunately, I actually putted pretty decent today or else it could have been a lot worse."

Mickelson, tied for 89th, needs a good score Friday in order to be around for the weekend. His tee time is 8:16 a.m. on No. 10.

"The greens should be perfect and if I can get a few iron shots close to the hole I should be able to make a run," Mickelson said.

Leonard finishes strong: Dallas' Justin Leonard, who has five top 10s in 15 appearances at Colonial, opened with a 3-under 67. It was a little untidy with three bogeys, but he put together a string of four straight birdies capped by holing a bunker shot on No. 16.

Casey leads top 10s: Five of the top eight players in the world golf rankings are in this week's field. No. 8 Paul Casey recorded the lowest opening round of the five, a 66. Next was No. 4 Steve Stricker, the defending champion, with a 68. Ian Poulter, ranked No. 6, had a 69. Mickelson, No. 2, had a 71 and No. 5 Jim Furyk shot 72.

FW's Sabbatini shoots 67: Fort Worth resident Rory Sabbatini, 2007 Colonial champion, bogeyed two of his last three holes but still managed a 3-under 67.

Briefly: Tim Clark, who lost in a three-way playoff at last year's Colonial, opened with a 67, his 15th round in the 60s out of his last 21 rounds at Colonial. ... Dallas native Scott Verplank, who had a strong finish at last week's HP Bryon Nelson, opened with a 67. ... No. 18, a 441-yard par 4, was the most difficult hole for the opening round, playing to a 4.26 average. ... Chris Tidland withdrew for personal reasons after a round of 72. ... Dallas resident Corey Pavin, the 2010 Ryder Cup captain, opened with a 67. Pavin, making his 27th straight start here, won Colonial titles in 1985 and 1996. ... Aron Price, who gained a late entry when Dustin Johnson withdrew, shot a 5-under 65. ... In the previous 62 Colonials, the first round leader/co-leader has gone on to win only 15 times.