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Daly knows a thing or two about problems away from the course, from failed marriages and financial woes to trouble with alcohol and weight.

He underwent surgery to deal with his ballooning waist line, and has lost nearly 100 pounds. But his game had shown little signs of turning around — he’s ranked 455th in the world and his best finish of the year was a tie for 24th at the Puerto Rico Open.

No matter, Daly still has quite the following. Fans of “grip it and rip it” had no trouble spotting him at the Old Course, where he wore lavender paisley pants, a sky blue sleeveless sweater, a peach shirt and a turquoise cap. None of it matched. Not that it mattered.

Strolling the course puffing on a cigarette and carrying a diet soda, Daly put up his best score since a 66 at Royal St. George in 1993. It could have been a lot better, too — four putts lipped out or caught the edge of the cup, including one that spun 180 degrees around the back of the 12th hole to end a streak of four straight birdies.

Could it be 1995 all over again?

That year, Daly managed to put aside his problems long enough to capture his second major championship, beating Costantino Rocca in a British Open playoff with a mop of blond hair that was much longer than it is now.

“It’s a golf course, I don’t know, I just love it. I don’t know why,” Daly said. “It suits my game. Just a special, special place.”

But the Old Course relies on the elements to provide its best defense. Without the usual rain and wind, it was like target practice for the world’s best.

Of the first 51 players to finish, only 13 posted scores above par. Among those in the red: defending Open champion Stewart Cink, who got off to what normally would have been a very solid start.

This day, though, a 70 felt like an opportunity squandered.

“It was out there for the taking,” said Cink, who beat Watson in a playoff at Turnberry after the five-time champion missed an 8-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would have made him the oldest major champion in golf history. “I definitely left a few out there.”

The afternoon starters, including Phil Mickelson, could only hope the favorable conditions held up for them.

“For the real golfers, this is for the taking,” said Nick Faldo, who has played only a couple of competitive rounds this year and still shot 72. “For me, it makes it playable.”