Day shares lead after opening round at PGA Championship

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By Jimmy Golen

Updated August 7, 2020 — 12.38pmfirst published at 6.45am

San Francisco: Jason Day is on a pretty good run for a guy who hasn’t won a tournament in two years.

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Day shares lead after opening round at PGA Championship

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The 32-year-old Australian has finished in the top 10 in three straight tournaments heading into this week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco. Day, who won the PGA in 2015 for his only major victory, was the leader in the clubhouse towards the end of Thursday’s opening round after shooting a five-under-par 65 at TPC Harding Park.

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Day shares lead after opening round at PGA Championship

Replay

“I feel like the momentum that I’ve had over the last three starts has kind of seeped into this week,” Day said. “The funny thing is that every day I’m excited to go back to the golf course and play. Whereas before I was struggling to get up, and going, ’Oh, do I want to kind of put myself through this again?’

“To be honest, I’m excited to get out and play every week now.”

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Day won the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits and was runner up the next year at Baltusrol during a two-year period in which he claimed eight tour victories and spent 51 weeks as the No.1 player in the world. But he hasn’t seriously contended in a major since and has won just two tour events — the last in 2018.

Struggling with a back injury that forced him to skip the Presidents Cup in Australia in December, Day fell out of the top 50 for the first time in 10 years after missing the cut at the Colonial in June, the first tournament back after the coronavirus shutdown.

Jason Day is at the right end of the leaderboard after round one of the PGA Championship, to date his only major win in 2015.

Jason Day is at the right end of the leaderboard after round one of the PGA Championship, to date his only major win in 2015.Credit:Getty

To shake things up, he parted ways last month with longtime coach Colin Swatton, who had been guiding his game — and his life — since taking Day in as a rambunctious 12-year-old whose father had died.

Something clicked for Day in Ohio last month, when he finished tied for seventh and fourth in back-to-back weekends at Muirfield Village. Next was a six-place finish in Memphis.

“I finally had enough of feeling sorry for myself, and it’s easy to do that in this game because it is so mentally tough. You can start blaming everything else but yourself,” Day said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to pull your pants up and just move on, you know.”

A handful of golfers flirted with five under on Thursday, but Day was the only one who made it stick. He played bogey-free golf, and moved into the lead with a 1.8-metre birdie putt on his last hole, the 471m par-four ninth, which had been the second-hardest hole on the course over the morning round.

“I feel like the game is slowly coming around,” he said. “The confidence is coming around because I’m starting to see the results.”

Day shared the lead with American Brendon Todd, who also carded 65 as part of the afternoon wave.

American Brooks Koepka, carrying around the rare distinction of twice-defending champion, mixed six birdies with two bogeys that included a 12-foot save on No. 1 (his ninth hole), and came in with an ominous four-under-par 66, one behind Day and Todd. The party in second place with Koepka totalled nine players, including major winners Justin Rose and Kaymer, plus Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele.

Tiger Woods, in only his second PGA Tour event since February, struggled off the tee but, thanks to a longer putter that has allowed him to practice more without back pain, was three shots back after a 68 that included five birdies and three bogeys.

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“I thought anything today in the red would be good given the forecast … I was able to do it but I didn’t think there would be that many guys four-under or better,” Woods said after his lowest opening round score in a major championship since 2012.

There was a slew of players in third place at three-under par, including 2019 and reigning US Open champion Gary Woodland plus the ever-present Tony Finau, and a small horde at two-under, including Day’s countryman Adam Scott, 2019 and reigning Masters champion Woods, and 2019 and reigning British Open champion Shane Lowry.

Matt Jones and Marc Leishmanboth hit even-par 70 to be tied for 49th. Cameron Smith was one-over for the opening round, two shots ahead of Lucas Herbert.

AP, Washington Post, Reuters

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