The Open is sup­posed to be a sur­vival test, but not like this

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL DWYRE

UNIVER­SITY PLACE, Wash. — Try­ing to nav­i­gate Cham­bers Bay’s lumpy, grumpy lay­out is more than enough to make a golfer queasy. But Jason Day’s sick­en­ing mo­ment here Fri­day went well be­yond deep bunkers and light­ning greens.

The day had been go­ing quite well for the 27-year-old Aus­tralian star, as one would ex­pect.

He is one of those play­ers who seems des­tined to win one of golf ’s ma­jors. You just know it.

He hits it long. Putts it true. He swings the club as if he has an arc-con­trol but­ton he pushes that reads “smooth.”

In 2011, at age 23, he fin­ished sec­ond in the Mas­ters and U.S. Open. In 2013, he was third in the Mas­ters and sec­ond in the U.S. Open. Last year, in the crust and dust of Pine­hurst No. 2, he was tied for fourth in the U.S. Open, al­beit 10 shots be­hind win­ner Martin Kaymer.

He has played in 18 ma­jors, with­draw­ing once, miss­ing the cut twice and fin­ish­ing in the top 10 seven times. He is a man on the verge. He got a fast start to this sea­son by win­ning at Tor­rey Pines in a play­off. He had a history of in­jury and ail­ment, prompt­ing his cad­die, Colin Swat­ton, to tell Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union-Tri­bune that a year of good health was their goal.

“That’s all we wanted,” Swat­ton said, “... And this is the start.”

He shot a two-un­der-par 68 in his open­ing round here Thurs­day, three shots from the lead­ers. He was one over for his round head­ing into the back nine Fri­day, his back nine start­ing with the par-five No. 1, which was a par-four Thurs­day and prob­a­bly will be a par-five again Satur­day.

Don’t ask. This is the U.S. Golf Assn., play­ing with hand­cuffs and thumb­screws. Ex­pect only pain.

Day’s sec­ond shot into the green on No. 1 was long enough, but set­tled into a green­side bunker. He had about 15 yards of green be­tween his shot and the pin, but if he hit it a tad too hard it could catch a hill and roll down a 30-foot hill. He hit it a tad too hard. He was now 40 yards away. (“That is a joke,” he mut­tered). He needed to hit it hard enough to get it back up the hill, but not so hard that it would trickle back down into the same trap. Balls on the un­du­lat­ing greens at Cham­bers Bay al­ways seem to wan­der about, seek­ing evil.

Day had the kind of shot that would prompt a 20hand­i­cap­per to ei­ther throw his bag into a lake or swal­low his pride and try to putt it up the hill. It was also the kind of shot that can bring a triple bo­gey and an end to a player’s ti­tle chances.

But how of­ten we for­get what they keep telling us. These guys are good.

Day swung, the ball lofted enough to make the green, bounced a cou­ple of times and went right into the cup. Rou­tine birdie. Day tossed his club in the air. On the green, where he had the clos­est look at the shot, Jor­dan Spi­eth threw his arms in the air.

“I screamed,” Spi­eth said. “I was like some­body in the gallery. I prob­a­bly wouldn’t scream if he did that Sun­day and we were tied.”

Wit­ness­ing the shot from green­side, it was dif­fi­cult not to think that mo­ments like this, in a ma­jor, where a likely seven be­comes a four, are those dis­cussed later when that same player is hold­ing the tro­phy.

That thought per­sisted when Day made a long birdie putt on the next hole.

So Day’s po­si­tion­ing for ti­tle con­tention seemed in or­der as he walked to­ward his sec­ond shot on his last hole, the par-three ninth. He was three un­der, two off the lead, and was a good sand shot and a putt away from fin­ish­ing the day that way.

And then he kind of crum­pled on the side of a hill. He didn’t slip or slide. He just kind of folded up and went to the ground.

History came flood­ing back to those who have fol­lowed Day. He has missed chunks of time on the tour with a se­ries of health prob­lems, such as swine flu, bron­chi­tis, sleep dis­or­ders and si­nus con­di­tions, the lat­ter re­quir­ing surgery. He also missed time with a left thumb in­jury.

But more se­ri­ous were the times when he was forced to with­draw from events with bouts of dizzi­ness.

Tiger Woods, in the group fol­low­ing Day, watched from afar.

“I know he didn’t play in Dal­las this year be­cause of ver­tigo,” Woods said af­ter­ward. “I played with him at Me­mo­rial and we talked about it in depth. He did a blood panel and all that stuff. I hope he is OK.”

Af­ter go­ing down, Day rolled on his back and his cad­die, Swat­ton, hov­ered over him. As pho­tog­ra­phers swarmed in close, Spi­eth tried to shoo them away.

Slowly, af­ter maybe four or five min­utes, Day got to his feet, leaned on his club, went back to one knee and then slowly, shak­ily, made his way to­ward his ball. He had trou­ble get­ting down into the trap, looked un­steady over his ball, but some­how splashed it out close enough to two-putt and get helped away by med­i­cal per­son­nel.

It was a gutsy fin­ish. We prob­a­bly won’t know un­til Satur­day if it was a tour­na­ment fin­ish.

About four hours af­ter it hap­pened, the USGA re­leased a state­ment that said doc­tors had di­ag­nosed Day’s in­ci­dent as an at­tack of “be­nign po­si­tional ver­tigo.” A state­ment from Day’s agent said his con­di­tion was be­ing mon­i­tored and he was hope­ful of play­ing Satur­day.

Ac­cord­ing to med­i­cal jour­nals, there are many ways to treat ver­tigo. Play­ing Cham­bers Bay does not ap­pear to be one of them.

Stephen Bras­hear Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

JASON DAY KNEELS be­side his cad­die, Colin Swat­ton, af­ter fin­ish­ing his round of 70. Day col­lapsed be­fore reach­ing his fi­nal green, No. 9, with what was called a ver­tigo at­tack.

Stephen Bras­hear Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

out of a bunker by cad­die Colin Swat­ton on his last hole at Cham­ber Bay, then is carted off with med­i­cal per­son­nel. Only three shots be­hind the co-lead­ers, Day hopes to play this week­end.

Ted S. War­ren As­so­ci­ated Press


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