US Open Day 3 - Is Jason about to have his Day at Chambers Bay?
Post by Sports Writer, Derek Clements
ON DAYS such as these are heroes made. On days such as these, boys become men. And on days such as these we witness the true strength of the human spirit.
The third round of the US Open at Chambers Bay was one that will never be forgotten by those who saw it, whether in the flesh or back home in the UK in the wee small hours. And at the end of it all, four men were left standing, bloodied and bruised, but ready to fight another day.
And the one who captured all our hearts was Jason Day, of Australia. He had collapsed on this beast of a golf course during the second round, a victim of the vertigo attacks which have started to afflict him with worrying regularity. Doctors have tried and failed to find out what causes it, and that may be the most alarming thing of all for the young Australian.
All common sense dictated that he should withdraw from the tournament, but Day is one of the gutsiest golfers on the PGA Tour. He would have none of it, and his courage was rewarded with an extraordinary performance that saw him shoot a 68 and join Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace of South Africa on four under par at the top of the leaderboard.
Day was clearly in distress for much of the round, unable even to look up into the sky and follow the path of his golf ball at times. He had to depend upon his caddie to tell him where it had finished. And it finished in the middle of most fairways. As his distress became clearer with every passing hole, the partisan American crowd increasingly took to him as one of their own, and the standing ovation he received after holing out at the 18th green must have come close to bringing a tear to his eye.
Now he has to go out on Father's Day and attempt to do it all over again.
At one point during the round, Spieth had progressed to seven under par and was three in front. It looked as if he must disappear into the distance, in much the same way that he did at Augusta during his memorable victory in The Masters. But something extraordinary happened - his putter, the most reliable weapon in his armoury, began to let him down. Incredibly, Spieth began to three-putt. The day became one long struggle for the world No2, and the frustration began to show.
It is a mark of the 21-year-old's fortitude that he was able to hang on in there and record a 71 and a share of the lead. Then there was Johnson - a man who drove a par four measuring almost 400 yards, a man who shrugs off dropped shots as if they haven't happened. As Spieth faltered, Johnson took the lead, moving to six under par and a two-stroke lead. But he, too, struggled to find the right part of these massive, undulating greens and he, too, paid the price.
He wouldn't go away though, and every time a shot went, he would find a way to get it back, usually on the very next hole. His round of 70 was the worst he could possibly have recorded on this day of gut-wrenching drama.
And, finally, Grace. Most Americans will not have heard of him, but he is a six-time winner of the European Tour, and he loves links golf, having won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at St Andrews, He has every shot in the book and just could be the one to watch in the final round.
Those are the four main contenders, but it is impossible to ignore Louis Oosthuizen. The 2010 Open champion started the week with a 77 and after 20 holes he was nine over par. He has played the next 34 holes in a scarcely credible 10 under par. His second round was a 66, and he repeated the score in the third round to stand on one under par, three off the pace.
Oosthuizen admits that it was only pride that drove him on. "When you start like that, you can give up," he said. "But this is the US Open and I tried my very hardest out there and all of a sudden I started hitting the ball really well in the second round. It continued in round three and I have to tell you that I am really proud of myself. Three shots is nothing on this golf course and I feel that I have a great chance to go ahead and win this thing."
He is level with JB Holmes, who turned an ordinary day into an extraordinary won when he found a greenside bunker at the par-four 16th and then holed his recovery for an eagle two.
Chambers Bay will play its part in deciding which of these golfers emerges as the US Open champion, and it may not necessarily be the man who plays the best golf. Luck will play its part. But for all the criticism it has received - and there has been plenty - nobody can complain about the quality of the men who will battle it out in the final round to win the season's second major champion.
Most of us, however, will be hoping that the links can find it in its heart to reward the courage of Jason Day.
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