John Daly is in contention at the PGA Championship. Yes, that John Daly.

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

You didn't expect this. I don't care who you are, I don't care what your allegiance is, you didn't expect John Daly to be in the lead in the PGA Championship.

It's not that Daly isn't a good golfer. Even after all the sordid sagas, the multiple ex-wives, the life-lived-like-a-country-song, the guy remains one of the finest golfers on the planet. It's just that with Daly, the story always overwhelms the game.

On Thursday, though, we saw a different John Daly. A John Daly who harkened back to the kid out of nowhere who won this event in 1991. As befits Daly, his scorecard was as checkered as his pants, with four birdies, two bogeys and a stunning eagle on 11 that briefly put him into a tie for the lead. He would finish his day at 4-under, two strokes back of clubhouse leader Carl Pettersson.

"When I get on a run, six, seven, eight weeks in a row, I feel like I have a better chance at playing well," Daly said afterward. "It's starting to pay off a little bit, but that's if you're making cuts.  I always believe when you're making cuts, it gives you a chance to get some confidence in your game.  So I'm getting a lot of confidence, but I'm just hitting the ball solid."

There's plenty of time left in this tournament, but barring a total meltdown, Daly will be around for the weekend. And that's good news; think what you want about the guy, but he brings something to the game of golf that no one else in the field even touches. And Daly knows exactly what that is.

"My golf game ... is up and down.  So is my life," he said. "Everybody's life is up and down.  It's how we battle to get through it, and I think people relate to that."