LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jason Day is not a lock to win the BMW Championship despite his embarrassingly big lead here at Conway (Birdie Town) Farms.
How could a scenario as unlikely as Day not winning this thing actually play out Sunday? Consider this:
That looks like a Kraken, Bruce…
A rogue meteor shower is approaching…
The Occupy Back Nines Rebellion…
Rory McIlroy calls do-overs…
Killer bees and—all right, who are we kidding?
Day is human. We learned that Saturday when he made four bogeys. It was good to know because, frankly, we were starting to wonder after that 61-63 beginning.
On what looked like a tougher scoring day, even though Dustin Johnson racked up seven birdies, Day still looked solid. He shot a 2-under 69 (and that’s with a tee shot that went out of bounds!) and increased his lead by one to six strokes lead over Scott Piercy and Daniel Berger. McIlroy, a guy you may have heard of, is seven behind. Rickie Fowler and Johnson are among four players who trail by eight.
Normally, six shots back is a long shot at best. That is the largest 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour this year, which is notable given that Day’s 36-hole score of 124 tied the PGA Tour’s all-time record.
The way Day has been playing ever since the PGA Championship, six shots feels more like 16 shots. He’s had wins in the Canadian Open, PGA Championship and The Barclays during this run. And he is at 20 under par.
“It was a good day, the pins were tougher and the northern wind was difficult,” Day said. “To squeak out a 69, that was about the best score I could’ve shot today. This was one of the more important rounds of the week. That birdie at the last hole was big, it kept my momentum going.”
Nobody is planning on catching Day in the final round, not even Clark Kent, or if they are, they aren’t silly enough to say it out loud.
“Playing the way Jason is there’s not a whole lot we can do unless the tournament goes seven, eight, nine or ten rounds,” Fowler said. “There’s not a whole lot of catching him that’s doable unless he stays where he is or comes back to us.”
Big-hitting J.B. Holmes shot 70 to get to -11, still nine behind Day.
“It’s his to lose,” Holmes said. “Somebody is going to have to play really well and he’s going to have to mess up. If he continues to play well or just shoots even, he’s probably going to win.”
That’s an admission that PGA Tour players rarely make after 54 holes but Holmes is telling it like it is. If the leader was a rookie or some player who had never won before and was therefore likely to blow up under final-round pressure, sure, no lead is ever safe. We’ve seen it before. Remember how Paul Lawrie came from ten shots back in the final round to win the British Open at Carnoustie? That was a Van de Velde-ian miracle and, by the way, Carnoustie was so hard that birdies were mostly accidents. Conway Farms has greens and fairways that are so soft that Day got to 20-under a couple of times early during the third round. This is a birdie fest because Tour players will light up any course with receptive greens.
So, there’s no Paul Lawrie lurking out there this time.
Day says his plan for the final round and playing with a huge lead will be to simply push forward and widen the lead. “I’m just trying to get (win) No. 7,” he said. “If I don’t win, so what? Although to have a six-shot lead and to lose would definitely suck.”
He laughed at the absurdity of that notion, as did a roomful of journalists. The biggest wild card on the leaderboard is McIlroy, who has struggled with his putter all week. He managed to make a couple of putts coming in and birdied three of the final four holes for 67. He is within striking distance, sort of, despite not getting it done on the greens. His tee-to-green game has been impressive but he’s been The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight on the putting surfaces. Even Rory isn’t kidding himself.
“You want to be out there trying to win the tournament, not thinking about trying to finish third or second,” McIlroy said. “But the tournament is in Jason’s hands. It’s up to us who are behind him to get off to fast starts Sunday and he needs to come back to the field a little bit.”
Common sense says no lead is truly safe. Common sense also says, have you been watching The Summer of Jason Day?
In his last 27 rounds, starting with the British Open, he is 99 under par. Ninety-nine under par!
All but four of those rounds have been in the 60s. He’s got a 61, a 62 and two 63s during that run. Day will snag the No. 1 ranking if he wins the BMW Championship and he’s been playing like the best player in the world ever since St. Andrews. That guy doesn’t seem capable of shooting in the 70s here Sunday. Sure, he had a slightly scrappy round Saturday but all he did was pound in a 20-foot birdie putt on the final green to get his lead back to a touchdown (minus the extra point attempt).
“I’m not quite close enough to the lead to maybe catch Jason tomorrow,” McIlroy admitted. “I’ll go out there and play the best I can. If I can convert a few more chances, that 67 today could turn into 63 or 62 tomorrow and you never know.”
Echoed Johnson, who shot 62 in the second round, “Shoot another nine-under and we’ll see what happens. You never know.”
Right. You never know. Except sometimes, you do know.
Beware the Kraken, gents… but otherwise, beware Jason Day.