CHARLOTTE – There wasn’t much Jason Day didn’t do Saturday, bouncing all over the place in a surreal third round at Quail Hollow.
But it’s only about how you finish, and Day’s conclusion was an absolute nightmare.
The Aussie ended PGA Championship Saturday with a stunning quadruple-bogey 8 that offered one incredibly baffling decision. Quail Hollow’s par-4 18th played to a 4.6 average Saturday – making it the toughest on the course – but Day still gave nearly three-and-a-half strokes to the field with his closing implosion.
The disaster also likely booted Day from contention, as he posted 6-over 77 and dropped in a single hole from 4 under to even par, which is seven off Kevin Kisner’s lead 54-hole score.
“I didn’t even know what he made (on 18),” said Kisner, who played in Day’s threesome.
Day declined to speak with reporters after the round, but oh there is still plenty to unpack here regardless.
The 29-year-old had come to the final hole having not made a par since No. 11, but somehow his round remained intact.
Then it all happened.
A flailed drive right put Day in a tough spot, as his ball finished on pine straw right behind a tree. The prudent play might’ve been to punch back out to the fairway and hope to piece together a closing bogey.
But the Aussie went for broke (the nice way of putting it). Day instead attempted a heroic swinging hook shot around the tree (and more up ahead) and back toward the green. The margin for error here? Almost zero. And the potential payoff didn’t appear to be that great as Day was likely still going to struggle for par as it didn’t seem like he could get the shot anywhere near the green on this line.
On the CBS broadcast, Peter Kostis (nor any of the crew) could figure out what Day was trying.
“There’s nothing but trees and concrete,” Kostis said. “I don’t know what he’s looking at.”
The head-scratching play ended in disaster.
In fact, the ball ended up in a bush, from which Day had to take an unplayable for a one-shot penalty. He dropped back behind a row of bushes, and hit his fourth shot after some talk about free relief from a temporary immovable obstruction following the penalty.
From the right rough for his fifth, Day chopped it out short of the green, chipped up to 8 feet and couldn’t get the putt to drop for triple. He actually barely made the comeback for a quad!
What exactly could explain this series of unfortunate events?
“Frustration and fatigue can make for strange decisions,” Kostis said as Day cleaned up.
And well, that’s the only thing we can understand here for Day. The round, played in scorching heat, did last over five-and-a-half hours and Day’s final-hole meltdown masked the fact that he had already expended so much energy in 17 roller coaster holes.
His front-nine 36 – two bogeys versus one birdie – was rather benign, but everything started to change on the back.
It wasn’t a good omen when a short birdie putt at the par-5 10th pulled a 360 and stayed out.
A double bogey-bogey stretch at Nos. 12 and 13 seemed it would ruin his day as he dropped to 2 under and several off the lead (he began the round just two back).
His round seemed to be turning the other way when his tee shot appeared destined for the water on the par-4 14th but hung up on a bank. From there he made a fortunate birdie to get on track.
Two more birdies at 15 and 16 suddenly put Day 5 under and three behind.
Then, the unraveling: a sloppy bogey at 17 and the brutal triple to close.
Day’s already had a tough year, with his mom battling cancer and the Aussie’s (understandable) struggles on the course. Day has dropped from World No. 1 to No. 7 in 2017 and has produced just two top 10s in his last 17 starts coming into the week.
The Aussie spoke Friday about how it seems like a long time since he was playing at his World No. 1 level.
“It just feels likes it’s been 10 years ago because I have had a pretty poor year,” Day said.
He had a chance Saturday to possibly put an end to that. Instead, he dropped to a tie for 16th and almost certainly out of contention at an event he won in 2015 and finished second last year.
On a difficult Saturday that saw the lead drop from 8 to 7 under, it was all there for Day. But golf is such a fine line.
“He played good coming in and then gave it all away,” Kisner said. “It’s unfortunate.”