An 18-shot swing puts Day out front
May 12, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Day tied the course record at the Stadium Course with a 63 in his first round of THE PLAYERS Championship. (Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida -- The last time Jason Day played the Stadium Course, he made four bogeys, two double bogeys, one triple bogey and just two birdies.
When he added it all up, Day had shot an 81. It turned out to be his highest round of the year -- by five strokes, no less -- and the second-highest of his career.
Fast forward 364 days. The world No. 1 extracted his pound of flesh, and then some, from Pete Dye's signature creation on Thursday when he shot a 63 that tied the course record and gave him a two-stroke lead.
In case you're counting, and we know you were, that's a difference of 18 shots.
"There was a lot of frustration last year," Day acknowledged. "And the funny thing was ... I shot 69 in the first round, too, so I shot 69-81-63.
"(But) I've got a really bad memory, which is kind of a good thing in golf, I guess, where you don't really remember the bad stuff as much."
Day is the fifth player to shoot 9 under on the Stadium Course and two of them have gone on to win, including his countryman Greg Norman in 1994. More recently, Martin Kaymer opened with a 63 in 2014 and ended up winning by one.
Roberto Castro (2013) and Fred Couples (1992) own the other two pieces of history.
And make no mistake, Day knew exactly what the record was when he teed off on the ninth hole, his final one of the day. It's a 587-yard par 5 that offered an opportunity, but Day had to settle for the birdie, not an eagle, when he found a greenside bunker with his second shot.
Jason Day interview after Round 1 of THE PLAYERS
"I would have loved to shoot 10-under and be the only guy to hold that record, but I'm in pretty good company with the guys that have shot that, especially with Greg Norman and the way he played shooting 63 and three straight 67s," Day said.
"If I can keep that up, that would be great ... but right now I've just got to try and focus on trying to win this tournament and trying to play a good round two."
Day started on the back nine Thursday and birdied his first three holes, making putts of 30, 4 and 6 feet. He hit every green in regulation and added one more birdie before he made the turn, rolling in an 11-footer on the 17th hole.
Birdie putts of 13 feet and 20 inches on Nos. 1 and 2 continued the momentum. Day barely missed the next three greens -- minor flaws in an otherwise superb round -- but managed to add a 12-footer from the fringe at No. 4 before making birdies on two of his last three holes to tie the record
"I can't really recall the way that I hit the ball as well as I did today and then also putting as well as I did," Day said. "I've shot scores lower, but I think from tee to green and then on the green and then being patient and everything kind of just clicked today."
Granted, to see Day shoot such a good score was hardly a surprise. He's already won twice this year, bringing his PGA TOUR total to nine, and hasn't finished lower than 23rd in the eight tournaments (out of nine) in which he's made the cut.
Day, who ranks second to Adam Scott in the FedExCup, didn't play in last week's Wells Fargo Championship so he came to Florida well-rested. An early wake-up call left him tired, though, which actually worked in Day's favor on Thursday.
"If I'm a little tired, I've got to focus a little bit harder to try and hit the shots, the correct shots out there," Day explained. "I think that little bit of extra focus helped me to keep the momentum going because I definitely hit a lot of greens out there, and when I did miss the greens on the fringe for the most part, I gave myself a good chance at birdie.
"I just feel really good about how things went today."