Hank Haney on Spieth, Rory’s Drive and Rickie’s ‘Need to Improve’

hankPerhaps more than any golf instructor, Hank Haney knows exactly what is required to become the best, having coached Tiger Woods for six of his 14 major championships. And perhaps more than any golf instructor, Haney isn’t afraid to speak frankly about which players have it, and which don’t.

In an interview with John Huggan of the Scotsman, Haney is asked which member of golf’s big three will have the best career. Haney, who worked with Woods for six years, talked about what it takes to be the best through the prism of his experience with the 14-time major champion — and spoke most highly of Jordan Spieth.

“[Spieth] has that internal motivation that is second to none right now,” said Haney. “He has had no issues with his body. And he is best in putting, the part of the game that is hardest to improve. When you get to your 30s, you don’t normally become a great putter. So I have to go with him.

“His only downside is that he isn’t all of a sudden going to get long off the tee. He is running as fast as he can run in that department.”

We all know that Rory McIlroy has the kind of length that Spieth lacks, but what’s holding the 26-year-old Northern Irishman back?

“I do wonder about Rory’s motivation,” Haney said. “He’s made a lot of money. It’s human nature to ease off, but I don’t see the same dedication in him that I see in Jordan. There was the playing soccer thing. And the comments he made at the end of the season worried me. He said that the years Jordan and Jason just had motivated him, which is fine. But when did Tiger ever need that sort of motivation?”

Haney didn’t mince words when asked about Jason Day, either.

“With Jason you have to keep in mind that it has taken him a long time to figure out how to win at the highest level,” Haney said of the 27-year-old. “That time has been wasted. If he had figured it out quicker, I would have said he would turn out to be the best historically. If you look at his game compared to the other two, he should be the one.

“He is third in driving distance, sixth in greens in regulation, 14th in sand saves, fifth in strokes gained putting, fifth in three-putt avoidance and second in scrambling. He is by far the best player. Rory, in comparison, is 56th in scrambling. That’s a big difference.”

Haney would further point to putting as what sets Spieth apart from McIlroy and Day, saying that Woods and Jack Nicklaus were the “best pressure putters” in their primes.

But all this talk about the Big 3 comes at the expense of Rickie Fowler, who despite wins at the Players Championship, Scottish Open and Deutsche Bank Championship in 2015, is on the outside looking in.

“Rickie isn’t anywhere near the class of the other three,” Haney said. “He has to win a major to be up there with them. Actually, he just has to improve. Statistically, the top three are on a whole different level from anyone else.

“But Rickie is on a trajectory to get close to the top. He has shown that he can handle the moment. That’s a great trait. His problem is getting to the moment. If he gets there though, he can handle it. But so can the big three. So even that doesn’t give him an edge. It just puts him on their level.”

courtesy of Brendan Mohler (golf.com)

 

 

Jordan Spieth, Jason Day Highlight Tour Championship Tee Times

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

The 2014-15 PGA Tour season finale is here, and the tee times have been set based on current rank in the FedEx Cup standings. That means that arguably the two hottest players in golf–Jason Day and Jordan Spieth–are paired together for at least the first two rounds at East Lake.

The first group, off at 11:40 a.m. Thursday, consists of Louis Oosthuizen and Harris English. Among the other highlighted pairings are Rory McIlroy with Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler alongside Henrik Stenson. Hideki Matsuyama was slated to play with Jim Furyk, but he will now go solo after Furyk withdrew due to a wrist injury.

11:40 a.m.—Louis Oosthuizen, Harris English

11:50 a.m.—Kevin Na, Sangmoon Bae

12:00 p.m.—Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas

12:10 p.m.—Brandt Snedeker, Steven Bowditch

12:20 p.m.—Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey

12:30 p.m.—Danny Lee, Scott Piercy

12:40 p.m.—J.B. Holmes, Kevin Kisner

12:50 p.m.—Hideki Matsuyama, Jim Furyk (WD)

1:00 p.m.—Jimmy Walker, Robert Streb

1:10 p.m.—Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose

1:20 p.m.—Daniel Berger, Patrick Reed

1:30 p.m.—Dustin Johnson, Charley Hoffman

1:40 p.m.—Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson

1:50 p.m.—Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson

2:00 p.m.—Jason Day, Jordan Spieth

Jason Day Becomes World No. 1 for First Time Following BMW Victory

jason dayAfter winning his first career major at the PGA Championship last month, Jason Day has now crossed another career goal off his bucket list, becoming the World No. 1.

Day’s 6-stroke victory at the BMW Championship this weekend vaulted the 27-year-old Australian from third in the ranking to the top spot for the first time in his career. He is the youngest Australian to ever hold the number one spot, joining Greg Norman and Adam Scott as fellow countrymen to be ranked No. 1.

It was Day’s fifth victory of his 2015 season. Four of them have come since the beginning of July, which means they retain their full value now while Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy’s respective victories from spring have progressively lost value in the ranking system. As of this week, Day’s world ranking average sits at 12.64, but his two predecessors at No. 1 still remain less than a full point behind.

McIlroy and Spieth entered last weekend as the top-two golfers in the world, separated by the narrowest margin that Nos. 1 and 2 have ever been. After they both finished in the top 15 Sunday, very little has changed as McIlroy still has a slim edge (.03 points) over Spieth.

With just one tournament remaining on the PGA Tour schedule, the Tour Championship at East Lake is the last significant strength event for the next month. With three players stuck in proximity to each other, next week may very well bring another player to the top of the ranking.

courtesy of Sean Zak (golf.com)

Rory McIlroy Has Already Lost His Grip on Golf’s Next Era

Rory2PGAThey don’t make eras like they used to.

This time last year the golf world was busy feting Rory McIlroy, who had established himself as the game’s undisputed boy king. McIlroy, now 26, was such a dominant force that the big question was whether any other young players would step up to challenge him, or if he’d run roughshod over the sport. We now know the answer.

What’s stunning about golf’s current state of affairs is how much McIlroy’s standing has been diminished. Even though he made a brief cameo atop the World Ranking a few weeks ago, he is plainly only the third-best player in the game right now. (Fowler loyalists might say Rory is only the fourth best, but we’re not gonna go there just yet.)

Jordan Spieth began altering the landscape by doing what McIlroy has famously been unable to — solve Augusta National. His win there, and at the dust bowl that was Chambers Bay, highlighted the primary difference between these two awesome talents: Spieth’s superiority around the greens, which allows him to conquer firm, fast setups. Such speedy conditions have never quite agreed with McIlroy, which is inconvenient given that the lords of Augusta, Far Hills and St. Andrews all strive to achieve them for their championships. (The dons of Palm Beach Gardens have reluctantly accepted that August is not ideal for pushing a golf course to the limit, especially given their predilection for hot-weather venues.)

There was a pleasing contrast in the budding Jordan-Rory rivalry: an intense scoring machine versus an insouciant ball-basher. But Jason Day has of late added a new wrinkle by putting like Spieth while driving it like McIlroy. Just when Jordanmania had taken hold, and it looked like this could be his era and not Rory’s, Day has arrived as a man in full. In his Sunday showdown with Spieth at the PGA Championship, the 27-year-old Aussie simply had more firepower. He’s been too injury-prone for anyone to declare this the beginning of the Day Era, but he’s certainly a tantalizing addition in the rarified air at the top of the World Ranking. Day also has the advantage of being more settled off the course. Marriage and kids, and all the associated complications, are likely in the future for both Spieth and McIlroy. Day, an old soul thanks to a hard-knock upbringing, has already mastered the juggling act of being a touring pro and doting dad and devoted hubby.

If we can assume that the relentless Spieth is going to keep doing more of what he’s been doing, the really interesting question is where McIlroy goes from here. While he is physically recovered from the worst-timed kickabout in golf history, mentally it looks like he’s just not that into it. The front-nine 40 on Friday at Augusta was dispiriting, but he rallied with a strong spring, taking the Match Play and then, lest we have all forgotten, waltzing to a seven-shot victory in Charlotte, thanks to a Saturday 61.

But McIlroy played indifferently at the U.S. Open and seemed just the tiniest bit offended at how quickly the golf world forgot about him, as Spieth chased the Grand Slam. Missing the British Open was the worst luck imaginable. A golfer gets only two or three chances to tackle the Old Course in his prime, and to spend this Open on his couch was surely wrenching for McIlroy. Since he’s returned to action, he’s been scratching around for his old confidence and a little bit of form. Both have been slow in coming. At the Deutsche Bank — where a Friday 74 ruined his chances at victory — McIlroy said he was taking the long view and that the ascension of Spieth and Day will only help him by forcing him to raise his game. “When [I’m] playing [my] best and everything sort of clicks together,” he said, “I don’t feel like there’s anyone that can beat me.”

That was surely true a year ago. Now? We shall see. McIlroy remains a preeminent talent, and there’s no doubting his drive to become one of the all-time greats. Yet this rough season has made it clear that, going forward, it won’t be quite so easy for him to own the game.

courtesy of Alan Shipnuck (golf.com)

Jason Day Could Become World No. 1 With Win at Deutsche Bank

Jason%20Day%20Barclays_0If two is good, why not three?

What once seemed like a two-horse race to be the No. 1-ranked player in the world between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy is now a three-headed competition after Jason Day won The Barclays Sunday.

The 27-year-old Australian began the week as the No. 3 golfer in the world, but after Spieth missed the cut and McIlroy elected not to compete, Day’s third victory in four starts pushed him closer than ever to the top spot. Day will supplant both of them if he wins this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship and Spieth and McIroy both fail to finish in the top three.

If it happens, Day will be No. 1 for the first time in his career and would be the third Australian to claim the top spot, following in the footsteps of Adam Scott and Greg Norman.

Nonetheless, for the immediate future, the number one spot is very much in flux. Spieth held it for just two weeks after his second place finish at the PGA Championship, before relinquishing it back to McIlroy, who held it for 54 weeks prior. This is now McIlroy’s sixth stint as the world No. 1.

courtesy of Sean Zak (golf.com)

Time of Day: Behind the Scenes of Jason’s Major Breakthrough

jason-day1Sean Foley lay on a leather couch in the Whistling Straits clubhouse last Saturday night, telling a story that illustrates just how much Jordan Spieth has gotten into the heads of his peers. Foley, a swing coach to the stars, was on the practice putting green during the wind delay at last month’s British Open when Spieth stroked a midrange putt. The ball stopped a couple of inches from the cup, but then a hard gust blew it in. Throwing up his arms in mock disgust, Sergio García shouted, “Even when you miss it, you make it!”

This is what poor Jason Day had to overcome last week at the 97th PGA Championship in Kohler, Wis. Day, 27, had been become golf’s star-crossed kid, an awesome talent with a disconcerting inability to get it done at major championships. That he had contended until the bitter end at Augusta National (twice), the Old Course, Merion and Chambers Bay was testament to his sublime combination of power and touch, but something was holding Day back; just last month at the British Open he had an 18-foot downhill putt on the 72nd hole to join the playoff but somehow left it short.  He walked off in a haze of what he called “disbelief” and “shock.”

But Day has a flinty resilience that comes from a tough upbringing in Australia. After his father died when he was 12, his mother sent him to a golf academy far from the streets where he was regularly getting drunk and causing trouble. So the week after the heartbreak at St. Andrews, Day picked himself up and rallied to win the Canadian Open, and at Whistling Straits he played some of the best golf of his life across the first three days. Late on Saturday it looked as if Day might have to hold off only lurkers like Matt Jones, Branden Grace and Anirban Lahiri to get his breakthrough. Then Spieth mounted the kind of charge that has already become a trademark.

After a birdie at the 1st, his round had stalled with nine consecutive pars, so on the par-5 11th, Spieth lashed a monster drive. Explaining his technique, he said, “I was pissed so I swung really hard”; after a birdie there, “the holes started looking bigger.” Just like that Spieth turned ravenous, pouring in five more birdies for a back-nine 30 that propelled him from irrelevancy to within two shots of the lead and into the final group, alongside Day. Spieth, who turned 22 in July, lacks Tiger Woods’s seething intensity and raw strength, but his relentless drive and hyper efficiency have made him nearly as feared already. To have to fend off Spieth seemed like just another bad beat for Day, but this test of his fortitude turned out to be exactly what he needed. “I’m going to give him a fight,” Day said following the third round, with some steel in his voice.

On Sunday, Day was so intimidated he birdied four of the first seven holes. That left Spieth four back, and though he fought hard, Day simply refused to let him apply any pressure. The signature moment of this overpowering victory came on the 11th hole. Spieth had birdied the 10th to trim the deficit to three, and it felt like the moment when Day would allow the fates to conspire against him, as they always have. Instead, he mashed a 382-yard drive into the skinniest part of the fairway. When he got to his ball in the right rough, Spieth was thunderstruck to discover he was 80 yards back. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he yelled down the fairway at the 6-foot, 195-pound Day, who responded by flexing one of his brawny biceps. Day needed only a wedge for his second shot, securing a birdie that restored his lead to four strokes. He roared home with a 67, pushing his four-round total to 20 under, a scoring record for the major championships. Whistling Straits may have been softened a bit by rain, but disaster still lurked on every swing; Day was simply that good. “We play a lot of golf together, and that’s the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said Spieth, whose 17-under total had previously been bettered only by Woods and Bob May since the PGA Championship went to stroke play in 1958.

Day called the victory “one of the best moments of my life,” but the tears that poured out on the final hole were not joy, exactly.

Day’s father, Alvin, was a native of Australia, while his mother, Dening, hails from the Philippines. She describes herself as a “mail bride”—she had a long correspondence with Alvin but did not meet him until he flew to her homeland for their wedding. Jason was born in Beaudesert, on Australia’s Gold Coast. His parents worked at a nearby port, Dening as a clerk and her husband manning the scales.  “There was a big difference between the haves and the have-nots,” she says. “We were on the bottom of the have-nots.”

Jason started playing golf at age six. His father pushed him hard to excel, which created only part of the strain in their relationship; Jason says Alvin was an alcoholic. After he died of stomach cancer, the family fractured. Kim, one of Jason’s two older sisters, ran away from home and lived on the streets for more than a year before returning, while for Jason alcohol became an escape. “He was a lost soul,” Dening says.

Believing that golf was her son’s only road to salvation, Dening sold their house to pull together enough money to send Jason to board at Kooralbyn International School, a seven-hour drive from home. Colin Swatton was the golf coach there, and the two got off to a rocky start. On their first afternoon together Swatton instructed Day to work on his short game. “I told him to f— off,” says Day. “I was still a punk.” He stormed off and played a few holes before having a moment of clarity. “I was out there thinking, Man, my family is sacrificing so much for me to come here. So I went back and apologized.”

“I don’t think we’ve had a cross word since,” says Swatton, 46, who now serves as a caddie, coach and father figure for Day. “From that day forward Jason outworked every other kid at the academy.” Reading a biography about Woods helped Day focus his ambition; just as a young Tiger had done with Jack Nicklaus, Day taped above his bed a time line of his hero’s accomplishments.

After a successful amateur career Day turned pro in 2006, at 18, and moved to Orlando. With Swatton on the bag, he played well enough at Q school to earn status on the Nationwide tour for ’07. He won the 11th start of his rookie year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of that tour. Afterward, Day raised eyebrows, and a few hackles, by declaring his intent to unseat Woods at the top of the World Ranking.

Two days after the Nationwide victory he had his first date with Ellie Harvey, who was working as a waitress at a pub that Swatton frequented. They dined at Applebee’s, withSwatton, ever the loyal wingman, tagging along. After dinner Day sent him home so he could squire Ellie to the movies, and six months later she moved in with him. “Things moved really fast,” Ellie says, “but that’s kind of the story of his life. He had to grow up really fast, so at an early age he knew what he wanted.”

In 2009 they were married in a barn near her hometown of Lucas, Ohio (pop. 602). While most Tour pros are clustered in the Sun Belt, the Days live in Columbus to be near Ellie’s large, close-knit family. In ’12 their son was born—Dash, named for the rambunctious kid in The Incredibles. “Through Ellie and her family, Jason has found the stability he never knew growing up,” says Swatton.

It has not been as easy for Day to find his place between the ropes. Even as he began popping up on major-championship leader boards, he still had only one win, at the 2010 Byron Nelson Classic. His brash comments about being No. 1 were often brought up by the media as a kind of taunt about his underachievement. It took a tragedy to push Day to a different level. In November ’13, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines. Day was in Australia, relaxing with his mom and two sisters and gearing up for the World Cup, in which he was to play for his home country alongside his good mate Adam Scott. Days went by without any contact with Dening’s family until her brother was able to travel to check on the missing relatives. “They were gone,” says Dening. “Everything was gone.” Her mother and another brother perished in the storm, along with six cousins, among the death toll that exceeded 6,000.

Day was devastated for his mom, but Dening is as tough as Tida Woods—she insisted he compete in the World Cup to honor their lost family, saying, “Go win the tournament. We will cry afterward.” Her son played the most inspired golf of his life, joining with Scott to win the team title and holding off his countryman for individual honors. “It was incredibly emotional,” Day says. “I found something deep inside myself.”

Even after he won the 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and this year’s Farmers Insurance Open, Day has continued to absorb hard lessons. At this year’s U.S. Open he was felled by a bout of vertigo caused by an ear infection, but he bravely played on. Day shared the lead after 54 holes and tied for ninth. “I learned a lot about how far I could really push myself mentally and physically,” he says. “It’s just a matter of how much do you want it. And I really want it. I mean, I’m willing to put my body on the line just to get a taste of that greatness.” He even took some positives from the British Open, saying it was the most calm he had ever felt coming down the stretch of a big tournament. “Unfortunately,” Day said on the eve of the PGA, “some people make it look easier than others. Some people get there quicker than others. We’re humans. We’re not machines out there. It’s very easy to make poor choices and have bad swings every now and then. But we were so blessed with Tiger and Rory [McIlroy] and Jordan, just recently, that winning looks so easy.”

Spieth’s finish at the PGA elevated him to No. 1 in the World Ranking, but even before the tournament began he was already acting like the sport’s alpha male. Phil Mickelson has made it a tradition to organize money games on Tuesdays at the majors, and last week he enlisted Rickie Fowler to take on Spieth and his close friend Justin Thomas, a Tour rookie. Spieth woofed publicly that he was going to trot out his U.S. Open trophy, the one thing Mickelson can’t buy with his many millions.

“When I heard that, I absolutely loved it because it’s the kind of crap I would pull,” Mickelson says. Of course, Spieth left the trophy at home, but it was the subject of much trash talk. Spieth’s team was 1 up heading to the 18th hole, where he hit a toe-hook off the tee into a horrendous lie on the edge of a fairway bunker. With one foot in the sand, Spieth summoned a miracle shot to within eight feet of the cup. Fowler poured in a 40-footer for birdie, but Spieth gutted his putt to win the match and ensure a few crisp Benjamins would change hands. “I don’t want to say that birdie was complete bulls—, but it really was,” says Mickelson.

Spieth produced a similar highlight on Sunday—a bunker shot on 16 that prompted Day to say, “It baffles me the stuff that he can prove out there”—but in the end Spieth simply didn’t have the firepower to keep up. Day is now third in the World Ranking and along with Spieth and the 26-year-old McIlroy makes up a telegenic, cross-cultural and immensely appealing neo–Big Three. Reaching No. 1 remains the goal, and Day is willing to pay the price: He has eliminated sugar and alcohol from his diet, and he hits the gym with a vengeance six days a week.

Ellie is due in November with the couple’s second child, and after the baby arrives, the Days will continue to travel the Tour as happy vagabonds in a tricked-out motor coach. Dash is a little ham, and he stole the show during the awards ceremony, but at one point while in his father’s arms he pleaded, “Can we go home now?” He was too young to realize that after a long, hard journey, his dad is finally where he is supposed to be.

courtesy of Alan Shipnuck (golf.com)

 

Jordan Spieth just became No. 1 in the world. And yet he leaves Whistling Straits in second place

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

Jordan Spieth celebrates after sinking his final putt to win a three-hole playoff in the fourth round of the 2015 Valspar Championship

With his performance at the PGA Championship, Jordan Spieth became the official No. 1 ranked player in the world.

Yet, Spieth’s Sunday will be remembered for falling short.

It seems miscalculated, perhaps even cruel; to catalog Spieth’s play this week as a disappointment. Despite the misfortune of teeing off in harsh conditions on Thursday afternoon, Spieth kept himself in the tournament, a sentiment most of his fellow late-wave competitors could not say. (Oh, the mind wonders what Spieth could have done if he started in the morning.)

Even while Jason Day made a mockery of Whistling Straits, Spieth was very much in the Wanamaker running, his hopes ultimately dashed by Day’s tremendous lag-putt at the 71st hole.

Speith finished with a final-round 68, good for second place. This standing bestowed Spieth his summer-long pursuit of the No. 1 ranking, displacing Rory McIlroy from the spot.

So why does it feel like Spieth is leaving in disappointment?

Because, he is.

“Major championships are what we’re remembered for in this sport,” said Spieth after his round. “It’s what I imagine all of our dreams were as kids, to play professional golf and to compete and try an win major championships.”

Golf is the rarest of sports where the lines of success and failure are tenuous, ambiguous and ever-changing. Brooks Koepka’s T-5 finish will be noted as success. Same for Branden Grace’s third-place showing. Spieth beat both, yet, somehow, leaves Wisconsin with a less-positive connotation.

For the year, Spieth captured two major titles. He tied for fourth in the British Open to go along with the PGA Championship’s silver medal. He was four shots shy of a Grand Slam.

That’s quite the season. Hell, that’s quite the career.

But, as Spieth is finding out, when you’re the face of your sport, anything less than a championship is defeat. LeBron James can attest as much.

“You could look at that from a negative view of what could I have done, or you could look at it where maybe one putt and I would only have one major this year,” Spieth said. He’s right. Just as James is a Ray Allen shot away from owning just one ring.

But history doesn’t count the barely-mades.  It’s the near-misses that are remembered.

And make no mistake, he was close.

Look no further than the 11th hole on Sunday. Day’s tee shot appeared to be headed for deep rough, which would likely negate a chance to reach the par-5 in two. Instead, Day’s ball found the fairway, leading to a birdie.

Spieth, on the other hand, saw his second-shot approach fall just short of rolling into the green, catching a railroad tie and ricocheting into heather. On a hole that was statistically the second-easiest of the day, Spieth took par.

“It’s not easy,” Spieth commented in the media tent. “It takes a lot out of you. I’m tired right now. I mean, I left it all out there. I’m tired from the majors this year because of what it does.”

The FedEx Cup remains on the PGA Tour schedule, as does the fall’s Presidents Cup. Spieth will be a main player in both.

“This year isn’t over; I’ve got a lot of big tournaments coming up. But the four biggest are finished now until April.”

When you’re a golfer of Spieth’s caliber, those are the only four that matter. And the assessment is simple: Did you win?

For Spieth on Sunday, that answer was no.

courtesy of Joel Beall (golfdigest.com)

Day in the lead at PGA as Spieth makes a charge

jason dayThree times this year, Jason Day has gone into the final round of a major with his name atop the leaderboard.

Twice this year, Jordan Spieth has posed with the trophy.

The two hottest golfers face off in the final group of the final major of the year at the PGA Championship, both wanting nothing more than to have their named etched on the Wanamaker Trophy. Both go into the final round relying on a different set of memories.

Day made six consecutive 3s in the middle of his round, lost momentum with a double bogey from a bunker and then steadied himself with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that sent him to a 6-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Spieth.

“I’m not looking it as a negative,” Day said about his close calls. “You can’t, because you’ve got two shots and I’ve played phenomenal golf leading up to this. But now I’ve got to focus on round four. Everything I need to do is just make sure that I focus and prepare myself for tomorrow.”

Spieth was losing patience with nine straight pars until he blistered the back nine, closed with three straight birdies and shot 65.

He was five shots behind and had two holes to play, hopeful to stay within three or four shots. He wound up only two shots behind and poised to join Tiger Woods (2000) and Ben Hogan (1953) as the only players to win three majors in one season.

Just like his bid for the Grand Slam that ended at St. Andrews, Spieth is more concerned with one trophy than a collection.

“Just to try to get my name on the Wanamaker Trophy, that’s about it. That’s the only history I’ll be thinking of when we step on the first tee is you can hoist that trophy tomorrow and make it happen,” Spieth said. “I’ll go into tomorrow strictly for the history piece of trying to get my name on a different major.”

Day was at 15-under 201.

The abundant sunshine and endless action Saturday might have been a preview for what could be a sensational end to the majors. And while the focus is on Day and Spieth, this was hardly a two-man race.

Branden Grace holed out from the front bunker on the tough 18th hole for birdie and a 64, the low score of the third round that put him three shots out of the lead. The South African was tied for the lead with three holes to play in the U.S. Open until hitting his drive out-of-bounds onto the railroad track at Chambers Bay.

Justin Rose, despite a double bogey on the fourth hole for the second straight day, had a 68 and was three shots behind. And not to be overlooked was Martin Kaymer, the winner at Whistling Straits five years ago. He had a 65 and was four shots behind.

But in this undeniable generation shift in golf, Day and Spieth in the final pairing is compelling.

“You can never count out Jordan right now with hos he’s playing, especially this year,” Day said. “He’s just full of confidence right now. So with my confidence level and his stellar play right now, I feel like it’s going to be an exciting finish tomorrow.”

Spieth, even with a Masters and U.S. Open title in hand, still has a chip on his shoulder the way he lost his bid at St. Andrews. He was tied for the lead with two holes to play and finished one shot out of a playoff at the British Open.

“When I think of this being the last major of the year, it’s a little bit of a sad feeling because I really, thoroughly enjoy playing in majors,” Spieth said. “You want to make the most of it, even though … we’ve won two this year.

“So you look at it as a single major, as a chance to win this major, and there’s enough fight in us to finish this one off tomorrow, I believe.”

The turnaround late Saturday afternoon was stunning.

Looking determined as ever, in control of his swing and putting beautifully, Day was 6 under over a six-hole stretch in the middle of his round. That included an eagle on the 11th hole, where he hit his drive with such force that he hit pitching wedge to 15 feet.

One swing changed everything.

He tugged a 5-iron into a bunker left of the 15th green and was surprised by the amount of sand. The first shot didn’t make it up the slope and rolled back into the sand, and Day wound up with a double bogey right about the time Spieth shifted into another gear.

Spieth made a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and then hit 4-iron to 12 feet for a birdie on the 17th. His goal after a slow start was to stay close enough to have a chance on Sunday.

The volunteers were slow to post Day’s double bogey on the large leaderboard on the 18th green, which Spieth couldn’t help but notice as he lined up his 7-foot putt.

“I saw Jason was at 16 under and I said, `You’ve got to be kidding me. When is he going to slow down?'” Spieth said. “I saw that he was 16 under with four holes to go, thinking he could get to 17 (under pretty easily). I need to make this to have a chance within four of the lead. And then I think he’s dropped a couple of shots since then. But I did all I could do to finish off the round.”

It put him in position to sweep the three American majors. But he still was two shots behind Day, determined not to let his great year end without winning his first.

“If he goes out and wins tomorrow from him putting well, then he deserves it,” Day said. “But I’m going to give him a fight.”

courtesy of AP

This disjointed U.S. Open has found a unifying figure in Jason Day

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This has been a silent U.S. Open. No more. Now this is Jason Day’s Open. For three days, with galleries spread thin over Chambers Bay’s massive layout, the world’s best golfers have worked in library quiet. Not now. Not after Jason Day made a 6-foot putt at the 18th Saturday.

From the thousands in the bleachers, there came a waterfall’s roar, thunderous and rolling and promising to never end. Those fans knew what they had seen. They had seen a wonder. Jason Day may win this Open tomorrow.

The day before, Day collapsed along the 18th fairway, rose and finished the round before being helped from the course, all but carried to the players’ locker room before leaving the grounds for medical treatment. For years he has dealt with episodes of disorienting vertigo that leave him weak and ill. The question Saturday was not so much how well he would play but whether he would play at all. Yet there he was, on the 18th green Saturday, with that little putt for his third birdie in four holes.

At four-under par for the tournament, Day goes to the Father’s Day round sharing the Open lead with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Brendan Grace.

Did I call it a wonder? Yes, and his mentor/caddie, Colin Swatton, said it better: “It was up there with Tiger Woods playing with a broken leg at the U.S. Open,” which, you may remember, happened in 2008, the last time Woods won a major championship.

So, please, pardon me if I confess to bias, for tomorrow I will root that Jason Day, alone, survives the inevitable train wrecks that turn Open Sundays into such guilty pleasures. We do so love to see the gods brought low with the shaking horrors that strike us every time out. And this Open certainly was on its way to becoming an Open to love. Men four-putted. Gravity allowed balls to roll into deep, dark abysses. There was weeping, gnashing of teeth, and discombobulation. Good heavens, as if to portend a hellish Sunday, smoke rose Saturday from beyond the Lone Fir, suggesting either 1) a Tacoma factory fire, or 2) Ben Martin, a morning contender, setting fire to his worldly goods after committing both a triple bogey and a quadruple on his soul-killing way to an afternoon 86.

But then came Jason Day. He had walked Chambers Bay’s hills. He had walked in the heat of a cloudless day. He was three shots out of the lead at the first tee, and if you watched him there, you wondered if he could perform even the simplest act of professional golf — tee it up. Because vertigo is associated with inner ear problems, Day moved his head slowly and carefully, as if a normal descent to put a peg in the ground would set off the waves of dizziness and nausea that have struck him before.

After 14 holes, he was one-over-par for the day and no longer a name mentioned with the leaders Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brendan Grace.

At the par-3 15th, with a tee in one hand and a club in the other, he bent from the waist — and paused, leaning on the club. He seemed to shake his head that time, as if to re-direct whatever demons danced in his head.

“He didn’t talk much all day,” his playing partner, Kevin Kisner, said, “and that’s not like him at all. I told him if he needed help, let me know. After the seventh hole, he said he was sorry about not talking but he felt terrible. He never said anything more after that.”

At the 15th, playing at 246 yards, he put his tee shot 15 feet away. Made the putt. Made another for birdie at the par-3 17th before coming to the 18th. As Day came off the 18th, he stopped briefly to talk to a reporter. “I didn’t feel that great coming out early,” he said, “and then I felt like — I felt pretty groggy on the front nine just from the drugs that I had in my system, then kind of flushed that out on the back nine.”

For only a moment, though: “But then it kind of came back — the vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then I felt nauseous all day. I started shaking on the 16th tee box and then just tried to get it in, really. Just wanted to get it in.”

He had been there before, only the vertigo wasn’t as bad: “Last year I didn’t play the round after I had vertigo and this one was worse. I think the goal was just go through today and see how it goes.”

“Three birdies in the last four holes,” Kinser said. “He played unbelievable. Leading the tournament. Great. Now he can win it.”

Hope so.

courtesy of Dave Kindred (golfdigest.com)