Jason Day – on the 5th hole today – courtesy of PGA of America
Jason Day has recorded a third round of 70 at the PGA Championship near San Francisco and although now three shots behind the leader, Dustin Johnson, he remains very much in the hunt as the first major of the year heads into the weekend.
Day began the day perfectly when his approach at the first finished three feet from the hole to move just one behind the third round leader, Haotong Li.
On a layout which gives with one hand and takes with the other, Day would bogey his 6th and 9th holes although he kept in touch with a couple of nice bunker saves through the back nine before a birdie at the 16th saw him finish three back.
It was a day when so many worked their way into contention however and Day slipped from a share of second place to a tied for 7th. At just three behind he is one of many still very much in with a chance to win this significant title for the second occasion.
“I was 5-under coming into 16, I get to 16, I birdied that with a nice putt from about 20 feet away and then hit a nice one in close on 17, and then you’re sitting there going, I’m only two strokes back if I hole this putt.
“Unfortunately I didn’t, but it’s nice to be able to just hang in there, like major championship weekends you don’t have to do too much to move up the leaderboard, but you can do a lot to move away from the lead, unfortunately, by forcing things too much.
“I feel good about my putting, as well. I feel like that’s coming around nicely. Even though it didn’t look like I putted that great, I’m getting the lines right, unfortunately just not starting it on the line, and sometimes the speed may be just a little bit out, but overall I feel like I’m hitting good putts, just unfortunately they’re not going in.
“Tomorrow is another day, and you can wake up totally different tomorrow and feel great and everything is going to go in, so I’m really positive about how things are progressing.
“Overall it was a solid day even though I didn’t have a lot of birdies. I didn’t have a lot of bogeys, either. Hopefully that’s my poor round for the week and I can move on.”
Johnson leads by one over Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ with Collin Morikawa, Paul Casey and Brooks Koepka another shot back and one further back to five players tied for 7th with Jason Day.
For Johnson this is the fourth time that he has had at least a share of the 54-hole lead at a major, having held that position at the 2010, 2015 and 2018 US Opens. He finished those tournaments in 8th, 2nd and third places, respectively.
The only players with as many leads entering the fourth round of a major since 2010 are Jordan Spieth (6) and Rory McIlroy (5). Spieth converted three of those six leads for victory while McIlroy converted four of his five chances.
DJ is the fifth player to start 0-for-3 in major which he had at least a share of a 54-hole lead, joining Harry Cooper, Dai Rees, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Lehman. No player has ever started 0-for-4 when holding a 54-hole lead at a major.
“Yeah, I’m going to try my best not to do that,” said Johnson referring to that record after his round.
“All I can do is go out and play my game and shoot the best number I can. I’m going to just try and go out and shoot as low as I can tomorrow just like I did today. You know, just take what the golf course gives me and just keep on going because, you know, it doesn’t really matter what other guys are doing. All I can control is myself.
“I definitely have experience in this situation that definitely will help tomorrow. I’ve been in the hunt a bunch of times in a major. I’ve got one major, so having that experience is definitely going to be beneficial tomorrow.
“But it’s one of those things. Still going to have to go out and play really good golf. This is a tough golf course. Greens are getting really firm. They are fast. So I think the wind is going to blow again tomorrow, so it’s going to play difficult.
“I look forward to the challenge, and you know, I will definitely be relying on a lot of that experience that I have.”
Leader, Johnson – can he finally convert a 54 hole major championship lead?
Adam Scott retained an outside hope of a very low round tomorrow sweeping him into contention, his even par 70, losing ground in terms of position but something very special tomorrow might just open the door for him. He is seven shots from the lead.
Scott explained after his round just what he needs to do in order for that to occur.
“You can only be as aggressive as hitting the fairway off the tee. I mean, once you’re not in the fairway, you’re not aggressive. You have no control out of the rough.
“You might have a shot where you can get it on the green, but you’re not really in control. If I can hit a lot of fairways, there’s a low score out there somehow if I can dial in the irons.
“But I just haven’t had them starting on my line and doing what I want in the wind. It’s been difficult for me in that sense but I’m pleased I’ve putted very well.”
Twenty players are within five shots of Johnson, in fact at one stage today eleven players were within one of the lead suggesting tomorrow might well be one of the most intriguing major championship finishes in recent times.
The make-up of those players has sixteen of those twenty yet to win a major title which may prove significant in tomorrow’s showdown.
We have waited a while for the opening major of the year but if the current leader-board is anything to go by then the final day is very likely to be well worth the wait.