Jason Day Enters P.G.A. Championship With Low Expectations (But Is Already Breaking Them)

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Jason Day Enters P.G.A. Championship With Low Expectations (But Is Already Breaking Them)

Jason Day seemingly wanted to temper his expectations in defense of his P.G.A. Championship title. He was worn out after playing the Canadian Open last week, a week after the Open Championship at Royal Troon. He also caught a cold from one of his young children.

To make matters worse, Day’s wife, Ellie, suffered an allergic reaction at the P.G.A. Champions dinner Tuesday night, forcing the couple to spend most of the night in a nearby hospital.

“We had been there till two o’clock or one thing like that,” Day mentioned. “So I’m form of working on E proper now.”

Day had arrived at Baltusrol Golf Club having by no means seen the course, and he squeezed in just one follow spherical, on Wednesday. But the world’s No. 1 didn’t play like somebody who was unprepared by Thursday, when he posted a two-under-par 68 within the opening spherical, placing him in a tie for ninth, three strokes behind the chief, Jimmy Walker, who shot 65 to tie his finest spherical in a serious.

“I’m very enthusiastic about how I hit it at the moment,” Day mentioned. “To have the ability to go on the market and see the shot do what I would like it to do was thrilling for me. Really optimistic stuff going into the subsequent three rounds.”

After the primary three majors had been claimed by first-time winners, Day has put himself in place to be the primary participant since Tiger Woods in 2006 and 2007 to win the P.G.A. Championship again to again.

Ahead of him, three gamers — Emiliano Grillo, Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer — stand at four-under par. Four others, together with Henrik Stenson, whose torrid play continued after profitable the British Open, completed at three-under par.

On a suffocating afternoon with dense warmth, risky winds and the specter of late afternoon storms, scores had been held in test because the day wore on.

Jordan Spieth continued to wrestle off the tee, however he floor out an even-par 70 after making birdie on two of his final three holes.

Two inches of rain Monday night time softened the course for the follow rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, however by Thursday afternoon the fairways and greens had grown firmer beneath a relentless solar, making lengthy strategy pictures on the sizable par-4s tough to manage.

“I feel undoubtedly it was more durable within the afternoon,” mentioned Russell Henley, who posted a two-under. “Got a bit bit — I’m not going to say baked out, however just a bit bit firmer.”

The warmth additionally took its bodily toll. Many gamers tried to restrict their training throughout the week by not enjoying a full spherical to preserve power. In some methods, Day stated he might need benefited by arriving late and feeling too unwell to follow.

“By Thursday, when you follow Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you possibly can be fairly drained with how scorching it was,” Day mentioned. “I’m glad I took Monday, Tuesday off, though I’m a bit below the climate. It was type of a blessing actually.”

The dry fairways satisfied some gamers to place away their drivers and tee off extra safely with 3-woods and even irons. Day used a 3-iron off the tee on the 550-yard par-5 18th and adopted that with a 4-iron strategy that wound up in a entrance greenside bunker.

“If you don’t must take it on, you don’t have to,” Day mentioned.

Baltusrol has solely two par-5s — the 17th and 18th holes — however its lengthy par-4s put a premium on sturdy mid-iron play and accuracy off the tee due to the size of the tough.

“If you aren’t driving the ball nicely, it’s going to be arduous to attain,” mentioned Rickie Fowler, who additionally shot two-under par. “You have gotten to be enjoying out of the green.”

After making par on his first seven holes, Spieth drove his ball manner proper on the eighth and needed to pitch out from beneath a pine tree. His rescue shot didn’t attain the golf green, and his strategy landed no less than 80 toes from the opening. He wound up three-putting for a double bogey.

Spieth’s frustration simmered all through the spherical till he made his first birdie on the par-3 16th. He has not gone a spherical this season with out scoring a birdie.

“Michael and I have been attempting to set a objective after No. 7 to get two birdies to get again to even par on 18,” Spieth stated, referring to his caddie, Michael Greller. “I gave myself these alternatives.”

Dustin Johnson, the winner of the United States Open, performed within the afternoon and can have issue making the reduce. His seven-over-par 77 was his worst spherical since January. It included two double bogeys and a bogey on 18, the place he hit right into a water hazard — certainly one of solely 16 bogeys on the simple par-5 ending gap all day. Johnson declined to speak to members of the information media afterward.

Phil Mickelson, coming off a second-place end to Stenson on the British Open, gained this match the final time it was performed at Baltusrol in 2005. But he hit solely 7 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation to open with a one-over-par 71.

“I simply hit horrible pictures for some motive,” Mickelson stated. “I misplaced the rhythm and made some horrible swings. The sport has been very straightforward, after which the primary couple holes it grew to become actually arduous.”