Jason Day retains a strong chance of completing what would be one of the more astonishing major championship victories in recent times, with the Australian part of a four-way 54-hole lead at the US Open.
Day’s prospects of even seeing out this event were slim after he collapsed on the course towards the end of his second round. The world No10 was suffering from vertigo, which has troubled him with worrying routine.
Day still looked well short of energy when taking to the range for his pre-round warm-up on Saturday. Incredibly, he was subsequently to card 68 for a total of four under par. That means a share of top position with Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace. A maiden major victory would always be significant for Day but winning it in these circumstances would take things to another level entirely.
For all the USGA and Chambers Bay have been criticised, an epic finale awaits with some of the world’s finest players at the core of it. Without question, and even outside of his native land, it is Day who has the bulk of popular support.
Before holing for birdie on the 18th, Day was afforded a fantastic standing ovation from packed stands when approaching the green. He later admitted to still feeling far from his best. And yet, against all odds, Day will play in this tournament’s final Sunday pairing alongside Johnson.
“I didn’t feel that great coming out early, and then I felt pretty groggy on the front nine just from the drugs that I had in my system,” Day explained. “Then I kind of flushed that out on the back nine. But then it kind of came back, the vertigo came back a little bit on the 13th tee box, and then I felt nauseous all day. I started shaking on the 16th tee box and then just tried to get it in, really. I just wanted to get it in.
“Last year I didn’t play the round after I had vertigo and this one was worse. I think the goal was just to go through today and see how it goes.”
Day added that he was “extremely fatigued” and was returning for consultation with his medical team.
Day’s caddie, Colin Swatton, reflected on the “gutsiest” and “most stressful” round of golf he had ever seen his employer play. Only one player in the remaining field of 75, Louis Oosthuizen, carded a better third round than Day. “He just dug deeper than he has ever dug before,” added Swatton.
Johnson and Grace both signed for third rounds of 70. Johnson didn’t miss a single fairway, the first time he believes he has achieved such a feat in a major. Spieth had wobbled seriously and didn’t play particularly well but survived relatively unscathed with a one over par 71. Not so Patrick Reed, who stumbled to a 76.
Europeans have an excellent recent record in this event. Leading the charge on behalf of that continent this time around is Shane Lowry, who carded his second successive 70 on Saturday. He is one under par and still firmly part of the discussion.
“I said to my caddie coming up the last, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had at a golf course in a while,” said the Irishman. “Being in contention in a tournament like this, what more do you want? It’s great.
“I’m excited about tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll definitely sleep after that round today. I’ll get up and just chill out in the morning. A nice late tee time tomorrow is something that what you want.
“I like coming to golf courses that nobody has played. Everyone is on an even keel at the start of the week and you play it from there.
“It’s very tough but I think it’s playable. The greens are not the best surfaces, but if you hit a good putt nine times out of 10 it goes in. Sometimes you hit a good putt and it misses. That’s the thing a lot of players are focusing on.
“Yeah, it’s very tough. It’s tough to hit greens. But at the end of the day it’s a US Open.”
If Lowry falls short on day four, it clearly won’t be on account of attitude. Precisely the same can be said of Day.