Jason Day is a shot off the lead.
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Friday, December 09, 2011

SHEBOYGAN, Wisc. — Jason Day had a great fog delay at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Thursday.

Part of the first threesome of the day with Tim Petrovic and club pro Rich Steinmetz, Day woke up at 4 a.m., left his touring bus at 5 and arrived at the site of the year's fourth major to find the course so shrouded in pea soup that it was only a rumor.

And so it was that Day found himself shooting the breeze on the driving range next to fellow Australian Stuart Appleby — for about two-and-a-half hours.

"We were just talking, having a few jokes," said Day, 22, who shot a 3-under 69, one off the lead of Francesco Molinari and Bubba Watson, in just his second major-championship start. "It was a lot of fun, just hitting balls next to him."

(Ernie Els, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar were also at 4-under but didn't finish their rounds due to darkness.)

Once the morning fog dissipated and the breeze cleared out the mosquitoes, it was that kind of day for the Australians: fun.

Appleby, Mr. 59, birdied his first three holes of the day on the way to an even-par 72. Michael Sim, who tied for second place at the Farmers at Torrey Pines but subsequently missed the Masters and Players Championship with a shoulder injury, shot a 2-under 70.

Marc Leishman, who was named the 2009 Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour and got married shortly after this year's Masters, was 3-under through 13 and carded a 71.

Even the iconoclastic Steve Elkington, 47, had a good day. The 1995 PGA Championship winner also shot 71.

Surely Robert Allenby would have broken par, too, if only he weren't sidelined by a fishing injury to his knee that required surgery.

Or perhaps it wasn't as easy as simply showing up and flashing your Australian passport.

"There are some hard holes out there," Elkington said. "Particularly starting right out of the gate there, 2, 3, 4."

With Geoff Ogilvy struggling to a 2-over 74, Day led the Australian charge before tiring toward the end of the front nine, his second nine of the day, and making bogey on the par-4 ninth.

Much was expected of Day when he turned pro in 2006, and he exceeded the hype. At 19 he became the youngest winner of a PGA Tour-sanctioned event at the '07 Legend Financial Group Classic on the Nationwide Tour. At another tournament he shot 62-63 on the weekend, the 125 total equaling the lowest 36-hole score on the Nationwide. Day wasn't bashful about his aim to challenge Tiger Woods when he joined the PGA Tour in '08.

Success didn't come as quickly as many predicted, though, in part because Day stopped working hard, he admits, and in part because his body broke down in various bizarre ways. He blew out his back in the summer of his rookie year, missed a month-and-a-half worth of tournaments and failed to keep his card.

Incredibly, Day's body is still breaking down even as he sits just a shot off the first-round lead at the PGA.

He's been battling a chronic sinus infection for eight months, ever since the Sony Open in Hawaii, and he talks a lot about the "gunk" in his head that sometimes makes him dizzy or nauseous, especially if he stands up too fast. Day's press conferences lead the Tour in grossness.

"I'm tired of talking about it," he said with a smile. "And I'm sure you guys are tired of hearing about it."

He's been on medication for three months, and just changed it because he was becoming immune to the stuff. He often feels too tired to practice, making it all the more impressive that Day won his first Tour event earlier this year, the HP Byron Nelson Championship in May, and finished T60 in his first major, the British Open at St. Andrews, last month. Now he's 3-under through one round at the Straits.

"It was playing long out there today," Day said. "The course is a little soft out there, obviously due to the rain. I drove the ball really nicely and hit a lot of good quality putts. I saved myself a couple of times out there with a few long par putts."

Day hit just 11 greens in regulation but took a tidy 26 putts.

He plans to undergo sinus surgery as soon as he's done playing in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Despite feeling lousy with a sinus headache, he stuck around for the press, doing a long sit-down with the writers followed by a short video interview, then a live hit with the Golf Channel.

The fog along Lake Michigan had lifted. Surely someday soon the fog in Day's head will lift, too.

 

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