But it was the PGA Championship, and his quadruple-bogey 8 almost certainly cost him more than just four shots to par.
It likely cost him any chance of making his first Ryder Cup team.
Needing a great performance to earn his way onto the team, Daly turned in his worst score of the year -- an 81 that featured three double bogeys and that ugly 8 -- leaving him 16 shots out of the lead and headed for his third weekend off in the majors. Daly was tied for last place with Rory Sabbatini.
'I've got to play some incredible golf tomorrow just to make the cut,' Daly said. 'I've been through worse challenges. Hopefully, I'm up for this one.'
Daly won at Torrey Pines in February for his first U.S. victory in 10 years. He was one putt away from a chance to win two weeks ago at the Buick Open, which moved him up to 20th in the Ryder Cup standings and made him the people's choice to be a captain's pick, if he didn't get into the top 10 and make the team on his own.
It all vanished with a couple of bad swings with a 2-iron, and one disastrous hole.
'(No.) 18 really crushed me,' he said.
On his ninth hole of the opening round, paired with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh, Daly hit 2-iron off the tee left and into a bunker. He couldn't figure out how to get out, either by going sideways or even backward, so he tried to blast it over a valley into a landing area.
But it came up short, and Daly could only advance it a few yards out of the gnarly grass. He hit his fourth shot into a bunker in such a bad spot that his only option was to play away from the flag, the ball trickling some 70 feet away on a green about the size of a football field.
Three putts later, Daly had an 8 -- and still nine holes to play.
He finished with two double bogeys, both times missing the fairway with a 2-iron, and was dead last among the early starters.
Other players in contention to make the Ryder Cup team took advantage. Scott Verplank (14th in the standings) had a 67, while Chris DiMarco (15th) and Jay Haas (10th) each had 68.
'Some guys on the board are doing good,' Daly said. 'I've got to worry about making the cut, and then try to do something on the weekend.'
Daly's round came one day after U.S. captain Hal Sutton offered strong suggestions that while Daly might be a sentimental favorite, he was more interested in statistics.
And one statistic that has jumped out at Sutton is how guys fare on the par-4s and par-3s, particularly important since power might not be all that important at Oakland Hills for the Ryder Cup next month.
'There are three par-5s at Oakland Hills,' Sutton said on the eve of the PGA. 'There's more par-3s and more par-4s than anything else. And go look at everybody's stats for par-3s and par-4s for the year. You'll find out what I think is important and what's not important.'
Sutton only needed to look at Daly's round on Thursday.
His only two birdies came on the par-5s. He played the par-4s in 11 over par, not the best way to impress the captain.
'Like Hal said, par-3s and par-4s are what he's looking at,' Daly said. 'I really wish he'd say, 'JD is leading the all-around stats on the PGA Tour.''
Daly is the only two-time major winner to have never played in the Ryder Cup, and his popularity with blue-collar fans -- especially those in Detroit -- led several people to believe he would be a logical choice.
But Sutton has been looking for players who desperately want to be on the team, and he was never sold on Daly. Not only did Daly skip qualifying for the U.S. Open -- a major where Ryder Cup points count double -- he was perplexed why Daly chose to skip the International last week.
Those close to Sutton say what really got under his skin was when he asked the top 25 players to be fitted for Ryder Cup uniforms at the Memorial, and despite being reminded, Daly never bothered to show up.
Daly said he wasn't paying attention to the Ryder Cup this week, that he only wanted to play good golf.
'I hadn't even really thought about it,' Daly said. 'The way I'd been playing, I was honestly thinking, 'Hey, I could win this golf tournament.' And I love this course. I'm just trying to do the best I can.'
It wasn't enough on Thursday. Not even close.
Daly said he would love to play on his first Ryder Cup team, 'but I've got to play better than I did today.'
Even that probably won't be enough.
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