Saturday, June 18, 2016

Taking a page from Woods' book, Day moves up U.S. Open leaderboard

OAKMONT, Pa. -- Jason Day tried taking a page from Tiger Woods' playbook on Saturday.

The world No. 1 tried to scare the inexperienced and unsuccessful pack of leaders into coming back to him.

"I felt like if I can just put my name on the score board, hopefully they'll start to slow down a little bit," Day said Saturday night.

At the start of the week, Day said he's never felt more stressed than he does right now. Late in another long day, he tried to project that stress on the guys ahead of him.

It's an old Tiger trick, when he would make fields tremble with fear as he slashed and charged his way up the leaderboard. When Woods' name went up, others' often went the opposite direction. That's precisely what Day did to start his third round of this disjointed U.S. Open. Day made four birdies in the first five holes, nearly drawing back to even par for the U.S. Open, just before the leaders were set to start the third round at Oakmont.

Day then got stuck, making six pars in a row. That helped Day move up the leaderboard, which, now halted, only has six players under par for the championship. However, with an eagle on the par-5 fourth, Day got back to even par for the first time since he teed off on Thursday. After missing with his tee shot, Day hit a 4-iron toward the green from 260 yards, finding the back of the putting surface. Faced with a slick, downhill swinger, Day, who leads the PGA Tour in putting, drained it.

"It was a tough putt, but one of those ones where you pick up and you run with it because you're not really expecting to make an eagle there, especially where I was," he said.

The Aussie couldn't hang on, however, dropping a shot at the seventh. A pair of pars into the house, and Day had carded a 4-under 66, tied with Branden Grace for the clubhouse best in Round 3. Now, Day gets the benefit of sleeping in for the first time all week.

Shane Lowry, the leader on the course at 5 under par, still has four holes left. He'll have to come back, along with the rest of the unfinished portion of the 67-player weekend field, to restart the third round at 7 a.m. For Lowry, who went off in the next-to-last group, just before 5 p.m., on Saturday, he'll need to play 22 holes of golf on Sunday. With lots of sun and little wind expected, the 85-degree temperatures could take their toll on the returning players.

Day? He'll get up, have breakfast with his wife and kids and have an opportunity to relax.

"So that really does help a lot, especially in the temperature that we're playing in, more so lately, later in the week," Day said.

Day made his charge and used his Tiger trick. Now he'll try to do something Woods could never do: win a major from behind. Woods won all 14 of his majors

Woods has been mentoring Day for a while now, clearly seeing something in the world No. 1 that leads him to believe he could be just as prolific and intimidating. However, Woods has said he won't give Day a step-by-step guide to world domination.

"All I say is, I'm not going to tell how to make your game better. Ask it the other way around, of how I did it, and I'll answer it that way," Woods said in May at Congressional Country Club. "Jason asks great questions, in-depth questions, and he wants to get better."

Sunday is an opportunity for Day to show he's gotten better, to employ some of what's learned from Tiger and on his own in the heat of battle.

Day still had one champion's device left to use before he went home on Saturday night. Like so many other major winners before him who were looking for the slightest edge to aid their comeback bid, Day used the power of the podium to not so subtly plead for Sunday to be the most difficult day of this championship.

"I just want it to play hard and fast," Day said. "I think the harder the better, like a normal U.S. Open Sunday should be. I think it would be fun for everyone."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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