For a few hairy moments in his US PGA Championship defence, Jason Day was 10 shots behind Jimmy Walker.
He needn’t have worried.
The world No.1, having walked off the seventh with a double-bogey from nowhere, proceeded to take apart Baltusrol’s Lower Course in 90 minutes of sublime golf with seven birdies in eight holes.
That he couldn’t keep that incredible roll going all the way to the clubhouse mattered little as he signed for a spectacular 65 that sent a shiver up the collective spine of his rivals in the year’s final major championship in New Jersey.
At seven under, he’s two strokes behind surprise leaders Walker and Robert Streb, who signed for a major championship record-equalling 63 – the 30th such instance.
Remarkably, eight of nine Australians made the cut with rounds of even-par 70 or better.
World No.8 Adam Scott made three back-nine birdies for a 67 that took him to three under, one clear of fellow Queenslanders John Senden and Scott Hend who each took 70 today.
Hend’s Olympic teammate Marcus Fraser shot a quality 68 today to reach one under on a course that really doesn’t suit his style.
Victorian Marc Leishman hung tough with a 69 to reach even par overall, while Emirates Australian Open champ Matt Jones hit back with a 68 to make the two-over cut line on the number.
Only Greg Chalmers (76 for a +8 total) will pack his bags early.
But the afternoon belonged to Day, who belied his less-than-ideal preparation to charge back into the fray after a “flyer” from the sand on the seventh hole cost him a double-bogey six and threatened to derail his title defence.
“I made a good birdie on eight and then nine to get me back to even par (for my round) because I was very disappointed after the seventh hole,” Day said.
“Then I just holed a lot of putts on the back side. The great thing about this game is momentum and if you get on a run you can get things going.”
So much did Day get it going than his wife Ellie, who’d been in hospital just days earlier with a food poisoning scare, tweeted: “I am just laughing because this is silly.”
Day made putts that totalled 142 feet during his round, including a bomb on the 14th where he clearly had the crowd pumping with his emotive reaction.
“I worked on my putting yesterday and it seemed like it worked out,” he said with his emotions in check later.
“I just need to get some rest tonight and get back into it tomorrow.”