HOUSTON — Ask again if you must, but Jason Day is feeling no pain. He swears it.
He’s been consistent with that message throughout this week at the Vivint Houston Open. Each time Day comes to the virtual podium he’s asked about his neck, his back, his overall well-being. The question comes up so frequently that he makes little jokes or nods as if to brush it away quickly. On Thursday, he smiled and said he feels he’s faced that question plenty in his career.
There’s logic behind the daily interrogations. Just a year ago, Day talked with his wife about hanging it up for good, the pain too much for him to bear. And just a few weeks ago, Day withdrew from the CJ Cup with neck problems after completing the first three rounds at 10 under.
The good news is this: Day’s getting more and more questions about his consistent play as well. And for a guy who hasn’t won since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship, he’s more than happy to field those.
VIVINT HOUSTON OPEN: Leaderboard
During Saturday’s third round of the Vivint Houston Open, Day didn’t look like a hospital case, but rather like the guy once on top of the Official World Golf Ranking. Until the final hole, he played nearly mistake-free golf in posting his second 67 of the week, sandwiched around an also-solid 68.
At times when he’s struggled, Day has talked about his swing being in between patterns, but there’s been little of that this week. When asked the difference between those patterns and positive swings, he singled out his final drive of the day.
“The feel of swinging well is the drive on 18, and then anytime that I get the weak one to the right or kind of the smother draw, that’s kind of in between patterns. I’m just not really pleased with it. It’s just a work in progress, I’ve got to be patient with it,” Day said. “Right now I’m in contention, I’m one back going into tomorrow’s round, so it’s positive in regards to how I feel like I’m playing. I think the golf swing is holding up quite nicely and the body is, too.”
Unfortunately, after a solid round at Memorial Park Golf Course, Day followed that final drive with a three-putt that dropped him one behind leader Sam Burns heading into Sunday’s final round. Burns’ 68 has him leading at 9 under, but Day and Carlos Ortiz are both a single stroke behind.
“Obviously, you’d like to hole that one, which I was trying to,” Day said.
“Unfortunately, I just gave it a little bit too much gas. Overall it was a solid day. I think I drove it nice, hit a lot of good iron shots and I was just very patient out there today, so it was good to see. Looking forward to tomorrow.”
Perhaps his best shot of the day came on No. 12 when he briefly took the lead. On Thursday, Day pulled his tee shot on 12 to the left, then he pushed it right on Friday. But on Saturday, he piped a drive down the middle of the fairway —he was third in strokes gained off the tee on Saturday — leaving a tricky, but attackable 166-yard approach. Day stayed aggressive and stuck it to inside five feet.
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“The miss, if you’re going to miss the green, it’s in that bunker to the right, but anything left of that pin is kind of death, hitting back up that hill and it’s very tough to judge,” he said. “I think the whole group kind of was feeding off each other today, everyone was playing some nice golf out there. Once again I was just trying to be as patient as possible. I know it’s a Saturday round, obviously can’t win it today, you’ve got to just give yourself an opportunity to get into tomorrow’s round.”
The energy that fed the group of Day, Burns and Ortiz kept the trio in the same position they entered in the morning.
Since Day is the only one of that trio who’s captured a PGA Tour title — and in fact, his first one came in Texas via the 2010 AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving — does he have the edge heading into Sunday?
“No, I don’t think so,” Day said. “I would say that I’d probably be a
little bit more calmer than both those guys, but everyone’s going to be nervous on the first tee tomorrow.
“What I saw out of Carlos and Sam Burns, I think they’re playing some pretty good golf, too, so they’re going to be tough to beat tomorrow.”