Still Day time at BMW

Aussie pushes lead to six strokes with medi­ocre 69

SundayXtra - - FOOTBALL - By Jim Litke

LAKE FOR­EST, Ill. — In­stead of run­ning away from the field one more time, Jason Day spent most of the third round at the BMW Cham­pi­onship run­ning in place.

He was hardly the only player strug­gling to cope with the sud­denly cool, wet and windy con­di­tions at Con­way Farms left be­hind by a wave of overnight storms. Af­ter open­ing rounds of 61 and 63, the Aussie made his first bo­gey in 20 holes at No. 6, then piled on three more to off­set a half-dozen birdies Satur­day en route to a 2-un­der 69.

“Ob­vi­ously, the most dif­fi­cult round that we’ve had this week by far,” Day said.

He was at 20-un­der 193 and had a six-stroke lead. That’s one shot bet­ter than he had at the start of the round, and the big­gest cush­ion any 54-hole leader has en­joyed on tour this sea­son.

“I think a lot of play­ers re­ally un­der­stood how hard it was,” Day said. “It was very dif­fi­cult to get any­thing go­ing.”

Day has won three times — in­clud­ing his first ma­jor, the PGA Cham­pi­onship — and is an ag­gre­gate 99 un­der in tour­na­ment play since a nar­row miss at the Bri­tish Open in late July. While the pack pur­su­ing the FedEx Cup leader got no closer, there was some reshuf­fling.

Scott Piercy over­came some shaky play early to shoot a 67 and moved up from a tie for fifth into sec­ond, and a spot along­side Day in the fi­nal pair­ing to­day. Bren­don Todd, who played in Day’s group Satur­day, made a triple-bo­gey 7 at No. 4, bo­geyed the next two and never re­cov­ered en route to a 76 that dropped him into a tie for 18th.

World No.1 Rory McIl­roy climbed from a tie for ninth to claim fourth place. He will go off in the next-to­last pair­ing with rookie Daniel Berger, one of the few play­ers who held their ground. Berger shot 70 and was tied with Piercy for sec­ond.

“The tour­na­ment is in Jason’s hands right now,” McIl­roy said, adding a mo­ment later, “he needs to come back to the field a lit­tle bit.”

That seemed like a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity mid­way through the third round.

Day has been hit­ting his driver so long and straight he rarely walks through the locker-room these days with­out some­one jok­ing he must be play­ing off the ladies’ tees. Maybe that’s why his drives at both Nos. 13 and 15 came as such shocks.

Day had barely launched his tee shot at 13 when he turned away in dis­gust, then headed back to his golf bag for another ball — even as his first one fi­nally came to rest in the front yard of a home across the road from the course.

“Just a poor swing... I’ve fought with that hole in the past,” said Day, who quickly gath­ered him­self and crushed his sec­ond drive, then stuck a short iron from 147 yards out to within five feet of the pin and made that for a hard-earned bo­gey.

At the 15th, he found plenty of trou­ble on the other side of the fair­way, block­ing his tee shot into the knee-high rough above a fair­way bunker. He hacked a wedge out from there and wound up be­tween two green­side bunkers. He used his put­ter from there, but wound up miss­ing a seven-footer to save par.

“Just hor­ri­ble,” he said about the tee shot at 15. “I’m just try­ing to get some­thing down the fair­way and give my­self a chance at birdie and ended walk­ing off with a bo­gey.”

But Day said rolling in a birdie putt from 20 feet at the 18th re­stored some mo­men­tum and that should give his ri­vals pause — as if they didn’t have enough to worry about.

“You kind of have to look at Jason as an out­lier” Rickie Fowler said. “Right now, it’s al­most like there’s a sec­ondary tour­na­ment go­ing on, for the guys that are 8, 12 un­der right now.”

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jason Day pumps his fist af­ter mak­ing birdie on the 18th hole dur­ing the third round of the BMW Cham­pi­onship Satur­day.

BUTCH DILL / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Scott Piercy fired a 67 Satur­day to move from a tie for fifth to sec­ond place.

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