Date: August 16, 2015
Author: Martin Blake

Day by 2 as major destiny calls

Yet again, Jason Day is poised to win a major.

The United States PGA Championship is the Australian's to win or lose after he posted a brilliant, third-round 66 at Whistling Straits today.

The 27-year-old Day, who has a string of near-misses in majors but no victories, leads the tournament by two shots going into tomorrow's final round at 15-under par.

It is the third time in 2015 alone that Day has had a piece of the lead to sleep on after three rounds. At Chambers Bay he was blown away by Jordan Spieth in the final round, suffering from vertigo, and then at St Andrews for the Open Championship he played only moderately before leaving a putt to enter the playoff agonisingly short.

Of all people, he knows the pain of the close finish. Perhaps now is his time.

Day will play alongside the astonishing American phenom Spieth, winner of both the Masters and the United States Open this year, meaning that it will be far from easy.

Spieth, who rolled in birdies at the final three holes for a back nine of 30, carded a third-round 65. South African Branden Grace and Briton Justin Rose are next-best at 12-under, just three from the lead.

Day's fellow-Australian Matt Jones is also in the mix but may yet pay dearly for his difficult final hour on the course. Jones, the Sydneysider, held the tournament lead through two rounds after he came back at 7am to complete the remainder of his own second round.

Jones was steady for most of the day but was overtaken by Day when the Queenslander rolled in an eagle putt at the par-five 11th. Jones found dreadful trouble with a pulled tee shot for a double bogey at the 17th, compounding a sloppy bogey at the 16th en route to a 73.

At 10-under, he is five from the lead entering the final round.

It was Day who looked the seasoned major championship player for all but a few moments of the third round. Had he not made an out-of-the-blue double bogey six at the par-four 15th hole, he might well have had an even stronger stranglehold on the tournament. Having pulled his second shot into a greenside trap, Day took too much sand with his shot and left it in the bunker, giving back two shots when he had been on an amazing roll.

Then at the par-five 16th he suffered a cruel blow when his three wood second shot, flushed from the fairway and headed almost straight at the flag, trickled through the back of the green and nestled in wicked, deep rough. He could only make par from there when eagle seemed a possibility as he watched his approach fly in, calling for it to "sit down''.

His day was bittersweet, with eight birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and a double. His high point was at the par-three 17th, where he hit a nice tee shot to the green and buried the birdie putt from six metres, celebrating with a double fist pump. After the dramas of the previous two holes, he knew how important that putt had been.

Day has had a remarkable nine top-10 finishes, including three runner-ups, in 20 major championship starts. He went straight to the range after his long day on the course, and said he planned on enjoying himself tomorrow.

"I've been here before, so I kind of know what to expect,'' he said. "I haven't won before, so that's something that is possibly a new experience for me tomorrow. But overall, I've just got to rest up as best I can tonight because I did come out this morning and play early and then had to wait around and then come out later on in the day and play. So rest is important, recovery is very, very important for me and just enjoying tomorrow is my main key.''

As for Spieth, he noted that many of those around him tomorrow will be trying for that breakthrough win. "Justin (Rose) is up there, but the other guys are looking for their first, and that's something I know is pretty hard to do.''

The American 22-year-old is now 50-under par in the four majors this year. For context, Tiger Woods was 53-under in his sensational 2000 season, widely regarded as the best golf ever played. Spieth will be tough to keep at bay tomorrow.


-15 Jason Day
-13 Jordan Spieth
-12 Branden Grace, Justin Rose
-11 Martin Kaymer
-10 Matt Jones