Tiger Woods was long gone from the Old Course by the time Jason Day buried his par putt on the 18th green on Sunday, but sparked by supportive words from the struggling superstar the Aussie bolted into a share of the British Open lead with 18 holes left to play.
Day -- who is entering Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open runner-up territory with three second-place and another five top-10 finishes at majors -- dearly wants to cadge that first major title. With the support of his good friend, whose days of lifting trophies of any type appear to be over, the winner of three PGA Tour events believes he is ready to prevail come Monday’s final round at St. Andrews.
Before he was wheels up after missing the cut in a second consecutive grand slam event for the first time in his career, Woods urged Day to "go get it done," the 27-year-old from Queensland told reporters following a third-round, 5-under 67. By adding the bogey-free score to his opening 66, Day joined amateur Paul Dunne and 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen at the top of the crowded leaderboard.
For Day, who battled a bout of vertigo last month at Chambers Bay, it marked the second straight grand slam event in which he has had a portion of the 54-hole lead. At the U.S. Open, Day entered Round 4 tied with Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace and Jordan Spieth but fell off to a T9 outcome.
This is the 7th time Jason Day has been in the top-4 after 54 holes in a major since 2010, most of any player in that span.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 19, 2015
That bit of trivia puts Day in elite company, since the last two players to take leads or co-leads into the final round in consecutive majors were Spieth, at the Masters in April and the U.S. Open in June, and Rory McIlroy, at last year’s British and PGA Championships. Both guys ended up in solo first, something Woods did 14 times in his illustrious career.
Jason Day is the 8th player since World War II to have or share the lead after 54 holes at both Opens. Previous 7 won one of the two.— Tripp Isenhour (@TrippIsenhourGC) July 19, 2015
"It's good to be mates with him," said Day, who played the first two rounds of the British Open with Oosthuizen and Woods. "Every time I'm in contention he always sends a text message saying, 'you know what you need to do.’"
He carried the words of encouragement from Woods, a three-time British Open winner, with him on Sunday.
"To hear that advice gives you a boost of confidence to know that you're doing the right things and that he really believes in your skills," said Day.
Tiger also dropped some knowledge on Day that only the winner of two Open titles at the storied home of golf could possibly share: That stroll to the 18th hole, with the victory sewn up, has no equal.
"We were coming up 18, I said, ‘it's the greatest walk in golf,’" Woods, who lapped the Old Course field by eight strokes in 2000, said after posting a 7-over for his two days of work. "He says, ‘yeah, it's nice when you have an eight-shot lead, too.’ I said, ‘well, you just go ahead and go get that lead.’
"He's playing well enough to do it," added Woods. Day echoed what Woods had shared with him on Saturday. "He said, ‘it's the best walk in golf,’" Day said. "If I have the opportunity of doing that no one can take it away from me."
Many, of course, will try, including calendar Slam-seeking Spieth, 11-under and one shot shy of the frontrunners and very much in the hunt for his third straight major triumph.
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