Day bat­tles into four-way tie at Open

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY DAVE SHEININ

univer­sity place, wash. — Jason Day rolled in his birdie putt on the 18th green Satur­day, and with the crowd at Cham­bers Bay roar­ing for him, he took off his cap and wiped his eyes. No one could quite tell what he needed at that mo­ment — a tis­sue, a hug or an am­bu­lance. When his hand left his eyes, they sud­denly looked glassy, red and stricken. The ap­plause fol­lowed him off the green and into the evening, then dis­solved into a ques­tion: Did that re­ally hap­pen?

Just eight hours ear­lier, no one knew for cer­tain whether Day, a 27-year-old from Aus­tralia, would hit a sin­gle shot Satur­day in the third round of the U.S. Open. The day be­fore, he had col­lapsed on his fi­nal hole from a bout of ver­tigo, and when he left the course Fri­day, dazed and wob­bly, the safe money was on Day with­draw­ing from the tour­na­ment.

In­stead, he teed it up and pro­duced what has to be one of the most re­mark-

able rounds in ma­jor cham­pi­onship history. On a day of bru­tal con­di­tions and equally bru­tal scores, Day went around these hilly links in 68 shots, for a 54-hole to­tal of 4-un­der-par 206, leav­ing him in a four-way tie for the lead with Jor­dan Spi­eth (71), Dustin John­son (70) and Branden Grace (70) en­ter­ing Sun­day’s fi­nal round.

As if Cham­bers Bay wasn’t hard enough, with its ex­tra-long holes, wild bounces and bumpy, brown-out greens, the U.S. Golf As­so­ci­a­tion tough­ened it even more Satur­day with some di­a­bol­i­cal pin place­ments and tee lo­ca­tions. This was not a course set up for any­one to make a move, and the scores proved it.

The fi­nal eight pair­ings to play Satur­day af­ter­noon — a to­tal of 16 golfers — played the third round in a stag­ger­ing to­tal of 59 over par, shuf­fling, shak­ing up and ul­ti­mately dec­i­mat­ing the leader board. Of those 16 golfers, only one man­aged to post an un­der-par score.

That would be the un­like­li­est con­tes­tant of them all: Day. In par­tic­u­lar, the 31 he shot on the back nine would have been stun­ning un­der any cir­cum­stances, let alone for a man strug­gling to see straight and stay on his feet.

“I felt pretty groggy on the front nine, just from the drugs I had in my sys­tem,” Day said in a very brief media ses­sion af­ter his round. “The ver­tigo came back a lit­tle bit on the 13th tee box, and I just felt nau­seous and dazed. I started shak­ing on the 16th tee box and just tried to get it in.”

Day’s cad­die, Colin Swat­ton, told re­porters that Day nearly picked up his ball and quit three dif­fer­ent times dur­ing his round. The per­for­mance will surely draw com­par­isons with Ken Ven­turi at the 1964 U.S. Open at Con­gres­sional, where he fought off de­hy­dra­tion, and Tiger Woods in 2008 at Tor­rey Pines on one good leg. But both men won the U.S. Open ti­tles that year. Day will have that chance on Sun­day.

The greens at Cham­bers Bay, splotchy, green­ish-brown car­pets full of mas­sive humps and tiny bumps — both of which wreak their own unique havoc upon rolling golf balls — re­mained a point of con­tention with golfers, a class of ath­letes not par­tic­u­larly known for their tol­er­ance of unique forms of havoc. One day af­ter Swe­den’s Hen­rik Sten­son equated them to “putting on broc­coli,” Rory McIl­roy noted the lack of green color on them and cor­rected Sten­son: “More like cau­li­flower.”

Plenty of golfers who started the day within strik­ing dis­tance of the lead came un­done Satur­day, in some cases in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. Ben Martin be­gan the day two shots off the lead — and birdied the first hole to move to within one— but some­how man­aged to shoot an 86 that in­cluded three dou­ble-bo­geys, one triple and one quadru­ple.

There are par-4s at Cham­bers Bay that are reach­able off the tee for the field’s big­gest hit­ters, but the 16th hole, play­ing at 372 yards on Satur­day, is not re­ally one of them. Nonethe­less, Day torqued his body and un­corked a drive so mas­sive, he nearly twisted him­self into a pret­zel at the end of it. As the ball rolled up on the green, be­fore trick­ling off to the side, the golfers and cad­dies al­ready there looked at each other as if to say, “No stink­ing way.”

Though Day failed to get up and down from off the green, he had birdied 15 be­fore that and would go on to birdie 17 and 18, a daz­zling stretch made all the more so by Day’s de­clin­ing phys­i­cal con­di­tion. He would later say the episode of ver­tigo was worse than the one that forced him to with­draw from the WGC-Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional last year.

“The goal of mine was just to get through to­day.”

TED S. WAR­REN/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A day af­ter he col­lapsed on the course, Jason Day shot 2 un­der in the third round to move into a four-way tie for first at the U.S. Open.

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