Date: June 19, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes @ US Open

Day, Aussies in touch with desperate leaders

The list of best player never to win a major grates hard on many of its inhabitants.

But it could soon have one less entry.

On a day of spectacular shotmaking and a couple of horrendous blowouts, the top six slots on the US Open leaderboard are held by non-major winners.

And four of them – joint leaders Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson (-5), Patrick Reed (-4) and Matt Kuchar (-3) are extremely well credentialled to fill the hole in their respective resumes.

But, as a relatively easy set-up for the potentially brutal Chambers Bay yielded 25 sub-par scores – including two to Australians – the day might also be remembered for the cataclysmic collapse of Tiger Woods, whose 10-over-par 80 encapsulated a staggering fall from grace.

Woods fired his third round in the 80s in his past six events having done so only once before in his long and distinguished career.

Amazingly, he beat home fellow American Rickie Fowler, whose 81 will ensure he remains on the aforementioned list.

One of the list’s pre-eminent names is Aussie Jason Day, who is again nicely poised for a run at a title he’s three times neared in four previous attempts.

Day finished with a tidy 68 to sit three off the pace – and only a late-afternoon breeze that was the chief offender in a double-bogey on the 15th hole prevented him from being even higher up the leaderboard.

The other seven Australians are headed by Geoff Ogilvy (71), Adam Scott and Cam Smith (70) at par or better, with Marcus Fraser (71), John Senden (72), Kurt Barnes (72) and Marc Leishman (73) still all in contention.

But Day looked the most likely on day one, clearly enjoying himself even after his late double-bogey that was borne of a ball remarkably plugged in a downhill bunker lie on a slope facing in the same direction as his tee shot.

“It was tough this afternoon, it was very, very tough – that bloody 15th hole down the hill,” Day said with a grin.

“I felt like I hit a great shot. As soon as I hit, it got up in the air, I knew it was going to be short. I didn't know it was going to be that short (20m), and I felt like I practically went under there and flew it back to the lip.”

Day said the biggest asset was that he let go of the mental baggage immediately.

“I was glad to come back with a birdie on the 16th,” he said.

“But I'll take anything under par. This is a marathon this week. It's physically and mentally demanding.

“So I just have to keep myself in it and give myself a shot on Sunday hopefully. And hopefully it goes my way.”

Day endeared himself to local fans by remarking of their boisterous support.

“I can understand why the (Seattle) Seahawks fans are pretty intimidating at times,” he joked.

“The crowd was in it today. It was great. We had a blast out there.”

Johnson and Stenson were superb in hard and fast conditions.

The twin towers pounded out a combined 13 birdies on a course that many said would yield few.

”My feel and touch were really good today,” Stenson said.

“I made some great long putts and made a couple of 15-20 footers for birdie and holed out nicely. It was a good day on the greens for me.”

Johnson, who made his only bogey on the 9th (his final hole) and even then nearly made a miraculous escape, put his score down to enjoyment of the style of golf required at Chambers Bay.

“I like using my imagination on shots,” he said.

“It's always fun to play courses that are different than what you play every day. I just enjoy playing here. I enjoy playing over at the British. It's golf that I really like to play.”