Charlotte: Jason Day raced nightfall to finish his second round Friday at the PGA Championship and enjoy a long night’s sleep, wrapping his arms around top-ranked Dustin Johnson for making it possible.
Seventh-ranked Day, the Australian star who won the 2015 PGA and was runner-up last year, parred the final hole with help from electronic scoreboard lights to fire a five-under par 66 and stand third on six-under 136, two behind co-leaders Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Kisner.
Thanks to a storm delay of almost two hours, there were 25 players who weren’t so lucky and have to return Saturday morning to complete their final holes. But Day isn’t among them thanks to some sprinting over the last two holes and Johnson’s willingness to race ahead and quickly hit a tee shot at 18, enabling the entire group to finish.
When Day caught up to the lanky American, he gave a hug of pure joy and gratitude.
“On 17 I was off the green. And we were walking up, and we were talking about, ‘If we can get a tee shot on 18, we could finish the round.’ And DJ is like, ‘I’ll do it.’ And I’m like, ‘That’s great’,” Day said.
“He ran out there and teed off. As soon as he teed off, you know, we all kind of flushed it down 18. And I just walked up to him and said, ‘That’s the biggest, most clutch thing I’ve ever seen anyone do for me’.”
Extra rest and sleep could enable a charge such as Day enjoyed Friday, when he eagled the par-5 seventh and birdied five of the next seven holes.
“I had to give him a hug for it,” Day said. “He was happy as well. Obviously to be able to finish and not have to wake up at 5:30 tomorrow, get some rest, because it is hot out there and it does take it out of you ... it really does (feel great) to be able to get that extra sleep and relax a little bit in the afternoon.”
Day has raced darkness to finish friendly rounds in his youth, never dreaming it was training for one of the biggest events of them all.
“I do remember finishing in the dark a lot when I was a kid, not thinking that it was going to be I was running down the 18th hole at a major championship,” Day said.
And he enjoyed being in the spotlight on 18, the glow of lights helping him see well enough to close with a par.
“There’s this big, massive screen on 18 which lit up the whole putting green. So it was kind of like you’re playing under the lights, which was nice,” Day said.
“It looked like we were playing in daylight. It was really dark out there. We were kind of slow the whole day and we played really fast the last two holes.
“Thinking about it, if I went bogey, bogey, I’d be very devastated right now sitting here. But at the end of the day, I finished strong with two pars. Just missed a birdie on 18. So very pleased with how I played.”
Day said he was pleased to round his full game into form, saying it felt like it hadn’t been so good in a long time.
“It just feels likes it has been 10 years ago because I have had a pretty poor year. Very pleased to be where I’m at,” Day said.
“I know that I can (win). But I’ve just got to focus on just trying to control what I can do out there.”