LAKE FOREST, Ill. – After watching another 329-yard blast, another sky-high 3-iron and another long-range bomb, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler did the only thing they could do in that situation.
A day that began with a 59 watch ended with Jason Day slamming home a 42-foot eagle putt on the last to turn another elite tournament into a boat race.
Day’s second-round 63 tied the PGA Tour’s 36-hole scoring record (18-under 124), put him five shots clear of the field at the BMW Championship, and left even the world’s No. 2-ranked player struggling to comprehend what he just witnessed.
“It’s an incredible display of golf,” Spieth said Friday. “He’s hitting it the longest, the straightest and he’s putting the best. It sounds a lot like when people told me Tiger (Woods) was in his prime.”
That’s not hyperbole, either.
Day is looking for his third win in his last four starts, and fourth in his last six.
He is 97 under par over his last seven events.
He matched the Tour’s 36-hole scoring mark – and also made two bogeys.
And he has made birdie or eagle on a mind-boggling 33.7 percent of his holes played since the PGA began.
“I feel like I’m in the zone,” he said.
The old adage that it’s hard to back up a low round with another good one apparently doesn’t apply to Day.
Yes, Conway Farms played easy because of heavy overnight rain and preferred lies, but Day still managed the second-best score in the second round. Through two rounds here, he is averaging a tournament-best 321 yards off the tee while ranking third in putting.
Every Tour-caliber player is capable of lighting up a leaderboard for a few weeks. The stars seem capable of sustaining that momentum for longer, whether it was Rory McIlroy in late 2012 or ’14, Henrik Stenson in summer ’13, or Spieth for the past six months.
They know what Day is experiencing. They know it’s glorious. And they know it’s fleeting.
“It feels like you give yourself a chance for birdie on every hole,” McIlroy said. “If everything is on, then that’s what happens. It’s nice to get on those runs, and inevitably it’s going to come to an end at some point, unless your name is Tiger Woods, but you can keep it going for a while.”
Said Stenson: “When a player gets in good shape with his game and mentally you can ride that wave and keep on being in the mix week-in and week-out, it’s a great feeling when you’re there, and that’s what you’re striving for when you’re not.”
McIlroy’s play is predicated on how he drives the ball. Stenson’s depends on his iron play. Spieth’s greatest asset, of course, is his short game.
“When we were in a groove,” Spieth said, “I just felt so good with my putter. I was keeping myself in it. I was hitting good wedges, but my putter was doing the talking.
“Jason’s is as well, but he’s also hitting it the farthest and straightest off the tee. He’s not missing many shots at all.”
Indeed, the scary thing about Day is that when he’s on, he drives it like McIlroy, stripes it like Stenson and rolls it like Spieth.
Spieth, who has been grouped with Day 12 times since May – including in the final round of last month’s PGA – said that the Aussie’s two rounds here were “the best two consecutive rounds I’ve seen.”
Day’s start at the BMW is four shots better than any opening 36-hole score this season, though many would consider Spieth’s 64-66 run at Augusta to be the best this year.
“I would compare it to that level of blackout,” Spieth said. “You just don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t care, and you’re just going to keep doing it, and that was amazing.”
That kind of sublime play can have a demoralizing effect. In the featured group of Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the FedEx Cup, Spieth (11 under) and Fowler (7 under) have played well, yet their combined total would only tie Day’s through 36 holes.
“You think it can help you because you can feed off of it … but it’s tough to play with,” Spieth said. “You feel like there’s nothing you can do. You try and get a little too aggressive on the greens when you don’t feel like you’re doing anything wrong, and I’m not doing anything wrong. Eleven under is stout for two rounds, but the fact that I could double that and probably not win, well, we may as well just try and double it and see what happens.”
Day understands the dynamics at play, and how his locked-in driver and red-hot putter can push his competitors outside their comfort levels, how it can exasperate them.
When Spieth made a hole-in-one Thursday to finally steal the honors on the next tee, Day still ran in a 30-footer on top of him.
On the 18th hole Friday, Spieth piped a 264-yard 3-wood, over water, to 7 feet.
“One of the best shots I’ve hit in competition in my life,” he would say later, but Day walked up to his ball some 40 yards ahead, ripped at a 3-iron and then drained the ensuing 43-footer to match Spieth’s 3.
Fowler told Spieth that the putt would drop for a closing eagle, because of course it would. All they could do afterward was shake their heads and laugh at the absurdity of it all.