DOHA, Qatar — John Daly overcame windy and dusty conditions to shoot a 5-under 67 Thursday and take the clubhouse lead at the Qatar Masters, one shot ahead of K.J. Choi and two better than 1999 British Open champion Paul Lawrie.
The two-time major winner had five birdies in a bogey-free round despite wind gusts over 20 mph that whipped up the desert sand that surrounds the course. Daly, who quit the Australian Open in November after hitting seven balls in the water, has not won in eight years.
"It was brutal. I'm pretty shocked myself shooting 5-under," said Daly, sporting a buzz cut and bright red and black checkered pants.
"It was great start," he said. "It was one of best rounds I ever played. I mean that. That is just how hard the golf course is playing."
Daly, who won the 1995 British Open in windy and rainy conditions, said he often thrives in tough conditions like those Thursday, adding that he was helped by consistent driving and the way he "managing the course."
"I had a lot of chances to at least hit the greens and I can't say its from practicing a lot because I took a lot of time off which I pretty much needed," said Daly, who is opening his season in Doha. "I love the way I putted. I've always been kind of decent in the wind. I'm a streaky putter so you can sometimes hit some bad putts and get away with it."
Choi (68) also had a bogey-free round that included three birdies on his front nine. Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson and Richard Finch were tied with Lawrie another shot back. Finch was tied for the lead but bogeyed his last two holes.
Fourth-ranked Martin Kaymer (71) was four shots behind.
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