By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
DUBLIN, Ohio -- I watched Sergio Garcia win THE PLAYERS Championship in 2008 and hit all 14 fairways on Friday while averaging more than 300 yards per drive. I thought it was the single best driving day I had ever seen on the PGA TOUR -- until today.
Under the pressure of The Presidents Cup and playing in the first group of the day, Jason Day hit 14 of 14 fairways and averaged 303.9 yards per drive. His ability to hit the ball both long and straight led to short approaches into greens. Day and Graham DeLaet did not make a single bogey while recording nine birdies and rallying from a 3-down deficit to beat Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker 1 up.
Long and straight will always be a wonderful way to play golf.
Relief: That big "sigh" you heard as the sun set in Dublin, Ohio, came from the lips of Jordan Spieth. He and Steve Stricker had a 2 up lead for most of the day but a birdie from Ernie Els sliced that margin in half on the 17th hole. The 20-year-old Texan promptly hit his drive into the hazard on the final hole, leaving Steve Stricker all alone. If you need someone to carry you, Stricker is not a bad choice. The veteran holed a par putt to halve the 18th hole and win the match 1 up.
Lead-off: Tiger Woods teamed with Matt Kuchar and posted a dominating 5 and 4 win against Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman. The Americans were bogey-free, making eight birdies in just 13 holes, but what was curious about the match was the batting order. Woods usually hits second in team competition but led off the entire match. They played in that order during a practice round and did not want to make any changes, with Woods saying, “We fleeced (Steve) Stricker during practice and kept everything the same.”
Sticking it: It you wonder why Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson were able to post a comfortable 5 and 3 win against Branden Grace and Richard Sterne, it’s because the Americans knocked down the flagstick all day long. Johnson, who battled the flu early in the week, averaged a tournament-best 21 feet, 8 inches on his approaches while Dufner hit his approaches 21 feet, 10 inches from the cup. The rest of the American team is now hoping to catch “Johnson flu.”
Drivable: The tee on the 14th hole was moved up, making it a dangerous-but-tempting 309 yards. Not many players took the bait and attempted to drive the green. Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson all gave it a go but nobody converted an eagle. The 14th hole gave up 24 birdies, no bogeys and played as the 13th-easiest hole on the course.
Nervous: Nick Price called it the most important match of the entire day, placing rookie Graham DeLaet with Jason Day in the very first match. DeLaet had a hard time describing the opening hole, saying he was too nervous to remember. He drove it 310 yards into a fairway bunker but from there hit it to within 12 feet of the cup and made the putt for a 1 up International Team lead. DeLaet said he was fortunate to make the putt, “because it’s tough to roll the ball when you can’t even feel your hands.”
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.