AUGUSTA, Ga. – This has not been the easiest of weeks for World No. 1 Jason Day. He has endured a couple of rough patches on Augusta National’s second nine, had to play from the trees a little too often, and Saturday, he was beaten by a man more than twice his age in Bernhard Langer, who is (gulp) 58.
But now you can erase the tapes and start anew. Day, 28, shot 1-under 71 on a rugged third-round trip through the 80th Masters on Saturday, and at level-par for the tournament and three back of leader Jordan Spieth, he finds himself with a chance heading into Sunday. Really, that’s all a player can ask.
“I just kept on saying to myself, just keep grinding it out, just keep trying to get your birdies when you can, minimize mistakes and just be patient with yourself,” he said. “And today I was very happy with it.”
After struggling to 41 and 39 the last two days on his second nine, Day finally held a round together on Saturday, when he was able to tour his final nine holes in even par. He birdied the par-5 13th hole, which is a must, and then stole a shot at the par-4 14th, when he made 3 from the left trees, converting a putt of 70 feet.
Langer then matched him, chipping in, and Augusta had yet another magical moment for its library that is filled with them.
“It was fun being out there with Jason Day,” said Langer, a two-time Masters champion who won his first green jacket two years before Day was born. “He’s a wonderful young man and I enjoyed his company. Obviously phenomenal golfer, hits the ball a ton. I’ve seldom seen somebody putt as well as he has today, so that was fun watching.”
Day made some key par saves late on his first nine to keep from losing any momentum. He made a 10-footer for par at the par-3 sixth and got up and down from a bunker one hole later, running in an 18-footer.
For Day, an opportunity to win at Augusta is not something new. In his first Masters five years ago, Day stood on the 16th tee on Sunday holding the lead, but would tie for second as Charl Schwartzel birdied his final four holes. Two years later, he again was in the mix, tying for third as another Aussie, Adam Scott, put his arms in the green jacket.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Day said, looking ahead to Sunday. He’ll start the day really within striking distance of Spieth, who let a whole bunch of guys in with a bogey-double bogey finish. “I mean, Sundays at Augusta is a different story. It’s always fun to play Sunday in contention.”
At times this week, it was questionable whether Day would give himself a chance, but he did. He’s right there. And with a big Sunday he knows he is capable of producing, the 28-year-old has a chance to capture his second consecutive major.