LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Jason Day’s mind was clouded. His supercharged driver was misfiring. His focus was drifting.
“It really feels like I was shooting 80 out there compared to the last two days,” he said.
But just when it seemed like he was vulnerable, like he was losing control, like his big lead would be trimmed to only a few shots, he drained a cold-blooded 20-footer on the 18th hole to restore order to this BMW Championship.
Day wasn’t perfect Saturday; his four bogeys were two more than in his previous two rounds combined. But it’s a testament to his level of play – and the difficulty of the course in a northern wind – that he still increased his lead, from five shots to six, after a 2-under 69. It's the largest 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour this season.
“Playing the way he is,” Rickie Fowler said, “there’s not a whole lot we can do unless the tournament goes into seven, eight, nine, 10 rounds.”
Even then it might not matter.
With another victory Sunday, Day would join Tiger Woods (10 times) and Vijay Singh as the only players in the last 20 years to win five or more events in a season. He will also achieve a career goal by reaching No. 1 in the world.
“I think this was one of the more important rounds to get through,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over, and I extended the lead by one more shot. I’m pretty happy with how things are going.”
And how things ended.
Worse in every statistical category on Saturday, he hardly resembled the player who shot 18-under 124 here and tied a PGA Tour scoring mark.
He found only half of the fairways – a crucial mistake when they were playing preferred lies – and pumped one tee shot out of bounds.
He hit only 11 greens – three less than in each of his previous two rounds.
He failed to get up and down on three occasions.
And his course management wasn’t as sound either, whether it was the “horrible” play off the tee on the short 15th (which led to a bogey) or a layup in the rough on the par-5 finisher.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter.
After receiving two-and-a-half inches of rain Friday, Conway Farms surrendered plenty of red numbers but nothing absurdly low because of the north breeze and more difficult hole locations.
Said Day of his 69: “I really feel like I got everything that I possibly could out of today’s round. That was the best score I could have shot.”
He is at 20-under 193, six clear of Scott Piercy and rookie Daniel Berger.
The only hope the field has is if Day backs up, but that seems highly unlikely, especially on the rain-softened course.
Day has played 33 rounds since early June. He has signed for an over-par score in only two of them. In other words, it’ll take a super-low round to even challenge him.
“It’s almost playing golf darn near perfect,” Fowler said.
Though Day has a suspect record with a 54-hole lead – 3-for-9 – he has closed out his last two victories, including at the PGA. Coughing up a six-shot advantage would tie a Tour record.
And besides, Day will be plenty motivated Sunday.
He is looking for his third win in his last four starts, and fourth in his last six. That run has put him squarely in the mix for the No. 1 ranking – one of his lifelong dreams. He will seize the top spot with a victory, no matter how Rory McIlroy (4th) or Jordan Spieth (T-11) finish.
“This kid must be eating trophies for breakfast,” Piercy said. “I’d love to know what he’s having.”