If Jason Day has the lead going into the 72nd hole on Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he knows he can play the par-5 18th from tee to green with a 7-iron and make birdie — Day practiced it on Wednesday when he played a friendly one-club, three-hole match against Blake Adams.
Last time the two were paired together they were vying for the title at the Byron Nelson Championship, which Day ultimately won by two after both knocked their approach shots in the water on the final hole. Day had taken the conservative approach and hit an iron off the tee.
Call it nerves, youth or what-have-you. But it was also a lesson for the 22-year-old Australian.
Day, who shot a 66 to take the outright lead after three rounds at TPC Boston, isn’t likely to tee off with a 7-iron and leave himself a long approach into the 18th green, which is guarded by a hazard.
“I know that I can get to the 18th with a 7-iron, three shots up there, and I’m going to say if I have the lead tomorrow I’m going to try and play as smart as possible down the 18th,” said Day. “I’m probably not going to hit a 7-iron all the way down there, but I’ll probably play it safe.”
Walking off the 18th green into the scoring area, Day’s wife, Ellie, who is an absolute delight, looked relieved yet still wound-up — even though Jason was the one who had been experiencing shortness of breath early in Sunday’s round.
“You can breathe,” I said to her jokingly. Ellie smiled and replied, “I know, I just get so nervous.”
In May the night before the final round of the Byron Nelson, the couple tossed and turned most of the night, but now that Jason has the first win out of the way, Ellie expects him to rest much better tonight.
“Jason is more pumped than anything,” she said. “I think he feels like, ‘Yeah, I can do this.'”
The week before the Nelson, the Days had just bought an RV trailer to take with them on the road instead of bouncing from hotels.
“Good thing [Jason] won, so we could pay for the bus,” Ellie joked.
“I think the bus will help [him sleep tonight] because it’s like being at home,” she said. “We have our own stuff and I can cook.”
Day has struggled with one illness after another since he came down with bronchitis at the Sony Open in January. His mysterious illnesses have been diagnosed as everything from chronic sinus infections to mono to allergies. In fact, he felt so sick before the Nelson started that he almost withdrew. Ellie said doctors still aren’t sure what it is exactly, but obviously, it’s not hurting Jason too much on the course.
“Ellie cooked me a really good dinner and I got a lot of rest last night and this morning,” said Day. “I felt really good out there. I kind of got that little pop back in my swing, which was nice. I hit a lot of good quality shots, especially with my 3-wood and my driving clubs, which was nice.”
What did she cook?
“It sounds kind of weird,” Ellie started to explain. “I made a crock pot and it had a mix of stuff, like smoked sausage, couscous and green beans. Jason’s very easy to please.”
Since Jason’s agent, Bud Martin, is in town, the Days might switch it up and eat at an Italian restaurant in Providence before heading back to the bus, where Ellie will work on her homework (she’s taking business classes online) and Jason will play video games — FIFA is currently the one of choice.
Day is paired with Brandt Snedeker, who lags behind by one stroke with a three-day total of 16-under. Luke Donald trails closely at 15-under and Steve Stricker, who hasn’t carded a bogey in four rounds, is also in striking range at 13-under.
“There’s a bunch of really good players out there, and Strick, he’s won here last year and he can get it going low,” said Day. “I just have to kind of look away from the leaderboards and just keep giving it 100 percent and keep playing my game. I think if I don’t worry about that, then I’ll be alright.”
[Photo by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]