CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jason Day remembers hustling to finish rounds of golf in the dark as a kid. He just never thought he would be doing it on the 18th hole of a major championship.
But the second round of the rain-delayed PGA Championship turned into a track meet as daylight turned to dusk with Day and playing partners Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson racing to their balls and playing “ready golf” so they could complete their round — and sleep in.
They managed to do it, even though they could barely see anything as they were coming up the 18th fairway.
“Obviously to be able to finish and not have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning (to finish the round) is big,” Day said.
Day has Johnson to thank for that — and he did just that with a big hug on the 18th fairway.
With the sun setting fast, the threesome knew they had to get someone to tee off on No. 18 before the horn sounded. As long as one player tees off before the horn, the rest of the players in that group are allowed to finish by rule.
Johnson told the group, “I’ll do it.”
He made his par putt on the 17th hole and then sprinted to the 18th tee and promptly knocked his tee shot down the middle.
They could legally finish the round which was held up for 1 hour, 43 minutes by rain.
Then it became a battle against darkness.
The group, which played so slow all day and had been as much as a hole behind everyone else, hustled up the fairway and knocked their balls onto the green.
While TV broadcaster Jim Nance commented that he was unable to see their white golf balls from his seat high above the green, the threesome was able to finish with the help of a giant illuminated scoreboard to the right of the 18th green.
“It was like playing under the lights which was kind of nice,” Day said. “I looked at it on the screen and it was like we were playing in daylight. It was really odd.”
Somehow, all three players made par on the 18th, one of the most difficult closing holes in all of golf.
“We all wanted to finish,” Johnson said. “Walking on No. 17 we knew we were getting really close. I told them I will go putt and tee off and we will finish from there. None of us wanted to wake up at 5 and get ready and play one hole and then sit around and wait to tee off again. If you can get done it is definitely worth it to do it.”
Johnson admitted it wasn’t easy gathering himself after running to his ball.
“I had to catch my breath for a second a few times,” he said.
Day said looking back he’s glad they made the call to complete the round, but admitted, “thinking about it, if I went bogey, bogey I would be very devastated right now.”
A similar scenario was taking place on the ninth hole with a group that included tournament contender Louis Oosthuizen.
With the group ahead of them waiting in the fairway for the green to clear, Oosthuizen asked Danny Willett — who is not going to make the cut at 10 over — to “take one for the team” and hit a 5-iron off the tee so they could complete the round.
He did just that, and they finished the round too.
Oosthuizen, who is at 5 under, was thankful for the opportunity to finish and get some extra shuteye to focus on the final 36 holes.
“I said, ‘Listen, I’ll give you a beer tonight — just get it down there so that we can go,'” Oostiuzen said.
It all worked out.
And now they can sleep in.
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