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John Daly draws a crowd, dazzles with his distance on first day of Kentucky's PGA event

Josh Sullivan, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Golf

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. -- When the opening round of the PGA Barbasol Championship got underway at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville on Thursday, it didn't take long to identify the day's main attraction.

Two-time major champion and five-time PGA Tour winner John Daly began the day on hole No. 1 with a sizable fan following that grew into a rowdy crowd by the time he parred No. 18 to finish the day with a 1-under 71.

Coming down the back nine, more spectators attached themselves to the group following Daly on every hole. They spoke to each other in hushed tones about his lively outfit (a pair of colorful patchwork pants), his apparent continued love for chain smoking cigarettes on the course, and the booming tee shots he seemed to reproduce on every hole.

Two of those fans who spent their day trailing the enigmatic character who zipped around the course in a golf cart (Daly suffers from arthritis in his knee and entered the Barbasol after British Open officials denied his request to use a cart) were 24-year old Michael Tarbet and his father-in-law, 53-year-old Lewis Grounds.

Tarbet invited Grounds to the Barbasol after receiving a pair of tickets from a friend, and he earned plenty of goodwill in the process.

"He's my new favorite son right now," Grounds said.

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Grounds was born and raised in Arkansas but has lived in Lexington for the last 12 years. Grounds said he's long been a fan of Daly, who played at Arkansas in college.

"Being from Arkansas and being a big Razorbacks fan like John, you definitely want to follow him," Grounds said. "But obviously a lot of people want to follow him because he has such a wild reputation.

"I know he wanted to be at the British Open but couldn't be, so what a nice win for this tournament to get him here. Of course there's the narrative about him driving around in a cart, but some of these shots he hits are amazing. And he's just such a persona."

Early on Thursday, Daly provided an example of the erratic play for which he's become known in recent years. He shot out of the gate with back-to-back birdies. After parring hole No. 3, he blasted a 326-yard drive on No. 4, but ended up with a triple bogey. On the par-5 No. 5 hole, he followed up another huge drive and a beautiful iron shot by running in a 48-foot chip for eagle.

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