SPRINGFIELD, United States: With his hopes of defending the PGA Championship title seemingly poised on a knife’s edge, Australia’s top-ranked Jason Day unleashed a run of seven birdies in eight holes to leap among the leaders.
After finding a bunker and missing a four-foot bogey putt at Baltusrol’s sixth hole, Day found himself at level par for the year’s final major tournament, well off the pace.
Day answered with two short birdie putts at eight and nine and a 17-footer at the 10th to swing momentum his way. Following a par at 11, Day sank a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-3 12th, an 18-foot birdie putt at 13 and one twice that long at 14 before ending with a five-yard birdie at 15.
“I gave myself a little bit of a kick in the bum with the double bogey on seven. It was a bit of a mess there,” Day said. “Being able to come back and birdie eight and nine really made things a lot better for me on the back side.
“Just kept on setting myself up for opportunities. Even when I was kind of out of position, either in a fairway bunker or just in the rough, I had perfect angles. So that was quite nice.
“I’m super stoked about what happened today. It’s a good solid round.”
It didn’t hurt that the course had been soaked by rain that morning.
“It was pretty receptive,” Day said. “You could be a little bit aggressive, but also play it safe on some of the holes that you needed to. If you had the putter rolling you could get a score going. Fortunately for me the back side was nice.”
Day was ill and fatigued for his lone practice round on Wednesday but two rest days and time have helped him feel better, noting it’s not like the broken leg Tiger Woods coped with in winning the 2008 US Open.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Day said. “I sweated it out over the last couple days. No excuses. Guys have won on worse. Tiger at the US Open with a broken leg. I’ve got a cold. It’s not the same. I’ll be fine for the weekend.”
In fact, Day said, his illness might have even helped bring about his dream run.
“Because I was a little bit sick at the start of the week, a lot of the expectation came down,” Day said. “Also having Monday and Tuesday off, being able to rest and recover. You can kind of wear yourself out.
Right now I’ve got to focus on resting up and be as patient as possible over the weekend.”
Day hopes there is some intimidation factor on US 36-hole co-leaders Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb by himself and fellow major champions Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson just behind him on the leaderboard.
“That would be nice,” Day said. “For me to be able to keep putting myself on the top of the leaderboard, definitely that helps a little bit.
“But I’ve just got to kind of inch my way slowly. Obviously I don’t want to give the guys at the top some shots when I’m making silly errors. So I just try to inch my way back into the tournament that way.”