Tommy Tolles walked off the 18th green at Firestone Country Club almost stunned, and it wasn’t just because the South Course is one of the hardest he’s ever played.

In his second full season on the PGA Tour Champions, Tolles said his game has been a mess. He had no hint that he would fire a 3-under-par 67 that left him at 137, tied for fourth and 6 strokes behind leader Retief Goosen in the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship.

“Anybody who’s watched my year knows I wasn’t expecting this. I’ve played terrible all year,” Tolles said. “I have started to play slightly better as of late, but to go around in 3 under in 36 holes around here, I’m amazed.”

In his eight previous Champions events this year, Tolles’ best finish is a tie for 39th. He’s won just $34,260. Friday was his low score of the year, although his 4-under 68 in the final round of the American Family Insurance Championship was lower in relation to par.

“Normally when you play really bad at some point things start to pick up. For my game right now, it’s only going one direction, it’s just kind of spiraling down,” Tolles said. “I haven’t really been able to put a handle on it. I can’t really say that it’s one part of my game.

“I’ve driven the ball better than average this year, but as I get closer to the green, I get worse. As of the last couple months, I haven’t putted very well. When you have two parts of your game kind of anchoring the rest and all of a sudden they start to dwindle away, things become kind of hopeless. I didn’t expect this, but I’m looking forward to the challenge this weekend.”

Asked what was working at Firestone, Tolles said: “Yesterday I didn’t drive the ball very well, I only hit four fairways. I was lucky to get a lot of decent lies that I could get on the green or around the green. My short game has been part of the problem most of the year and it’s been much better this week. I’ve had a few really good recoveries. Fortune is definitely on my side right now.”

Tolles won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly the Web.com Tour), but never on the PGA Tour. But he was considered one of its rising stars when he totaled earnings of over $800,000 in 1996 and ’97, his second and third years.

“I was one of the late bloomers, I got my tour card at 28, a lot of guys these days are getting it right out of college,” said Tolles, 52, who lives in Hendersonville, N.C. “When I got out on the tour, it’s really weird, I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations, I didn’t know how I would fit it, kind of attack the courses because everything was kind of new for me. My best years were my first three or four years. Then you start to get expectations and everything starts kind of getting away from you.

“Kind of the same thing happened last year. I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first full year out here and I didn’t play great, but I played solid the first three or four weeks. The rest of the year was a catastrophe. Then this year it’s kind of bled over from last year. I’ve talked to people who said, ‘Don’t really care where it goes, just put a good swing on it and chase it.’ It’s not so easy to do that.”

Tolles saw Goosen shoot one shy of the course record and knows low scores are out there.

“It’s certainly out there, especially with the conditions from last night. Had it not rained last night, it would have been really, really tough this weekend. Tough for the old guys and it would have been a great challenge,” Tolles said. “I would have preferred it to be hard and fast. Softer conditions plays more into the general field.

“I’m looking forward to the weekend, hopefully it dries out a little bit more. It’s nice when the breeze kicks up. Boy, I didn’t know Ohio could get this humid.”

Daly hurting

John Daly’s promising second round took a turn for the worse on the back nine of the second round.

The two-time major champion on the PGA Tour stood 2 under after No. 7, but bogeyed five of the final 10 holes and finished 3 over and tied for 26th.

Allowed to ride in a cart because of his arthritic right knee that he said appears headed for replacement surgery, Daly struggled to get down the four steps of the scoring trailer. He also was visibly limping, the knee stiff, as he walked to and from the cart.

He declined to talk, saying he had to ice the knee immediately.

Daly is one of two players in the field allowed to ride in a cart. The other is Scott Verplank, 55, who has battled diabetes since he was 8.

Asked how he felt about Daly riding, Verplank said: “I don’t care what he does. Unfortunately I qualify for one through the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Apparently the PGA Tour thinks he qualifies for one, too, so whatever. I could care less.”

Day at the aces

Glen Day used a 5-iron to score a hole-in-one on the fifth hole, which played to 186 yards on Friday. It was his second ace on the Champions Tour and the sixth on the tour this season.

That’s all, folks

Mark O’Meara (back) and Tommy Armour III (neck) withdrew during the second round.

Age is irrelevant

Jay Haas, who is one of three players tied for fourth place at 3-under 137, is looking to become the oldest winner in PGA Tour Champions history. He will be 65 years, 7 months and 12 days old on Sunday. Scott Hoch was 63 years, five months and four days when he teamed with Tom Pernice to win the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge this season and Mike Fetchick was 63 years to the day when he won the 1985 Hilton Head Seniors Invitational.

Big hitters

Goosen is leading the tournament in driving distance at 297.8 yards, and 5-foot-5, 170-pound Scott Parel is second at 295.8.

Scoring stats

After two rounds, there have been 16 rounds under par, 11 at even-par and 49 over par, including six rounds of 80 and over.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.