- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - John Inman only qualified for the PGA Tour Champions’ Principal Charity Classic on Tuesday.

On Friday, he topped the leaderboard at the Wakonda Club.

Inman shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead, the first time the two-time PGA Tour winner has led after an opening round on the 50-and-over tour. The milestone round came three days he won a qualifying event at a nearby course.

“I know that if I play well and I stay calm and stay in my rhythm I can hit good shots,” Inman said. “The putter feels good.”

Tom Lehman, who has never finished outside of the top 10 in four previous trips to Iowa, was tied for second with Todd Hamilton, Gary Hallberg, Mike Goodes and John Riegger.

Miguel Angel Jimenez opened with a 68 in his first start in the event. John Daly, also making Des Moines debut, had a 74.

Daly’s presence and near-perfect weather had officials expecting some of the biggest crowds this tournament has ever seen. Organizers were even forced to add shuttles, extra security and merchandise during the opening round.

The tour made it easy on fans to follow those big draws by grouping Daly and Jimenez with Rocco Mediate, the Senior PGA Championship last week.

But the unheralded Inman turned out to be the player to watch.

Inman, who was the coach at North Carolina from over a decade, only got back into playing in 2012 after the Tar Heels decided not to renew his contract.

Inman has mostly struggled over the past few years, never finishing better than ninth on the senior circuit, but he carried the momentum from the qualifying tournament.

Inman birdied his first four holes and six of his first nine. He was 2 under on his back nine, notching birdies on a pair of par-5 holes.

“I’ve been playing well. But you just need reps,” said Inman, who has played in four events this year. “Golf is so fickle. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Daly, who missed the cut at last week’s major, saw his round disintegrate on the back nine. He bogeyed three straight holes - a par 3, a par 5 and a par 4 - to slip down the leaderboard.

“I just putted bad. I just can’t get the speed of the greens down,” said Daly, who had 31 putts and hit just 11 greens in regulation. “The confidence level in the short game right now isn’t very good.”

Jimenez looked set to push Inman and the rest of the leaders, but bogeys on the par-4 16th and 18th holes dropped back. Still, Jimenez was tied for seventh on a course he’s still trying to figure out.

Mediate, who set a tournament record in winning the Senior PGA, kept within striking distance heading into Saturday with a 69. Mediate made par on 14 holes with an eagle and just one bogey.

Woody Austin, the top-ranked player on the money list in the field, shot 72. Tour leader Bernhard Langer didn’t make the trip to Iowa as he prepares for the Senior Players Championship.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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