JASON Day’s first taste of major championship contention in 2017 has the world No. 7 hungry for more during the final two rounds of the US PGA Championship in North Carolina.
The 29-year-old Australian blocked out a stressful weather-delayed second round, which briefly halted his surge up the leaderboard, to be two shots off the pace heading into Saturday’s third round at Quail Hollow.
While world No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama fired a stunning seven-under-par 64 to share the lead at eight-under with American Kevin Kisner (67), Day carded a gutsy 66 to claim outright third at six-under.
Francesco Molinari (64) joined last week’s WGC-Bridgestone winner Matsuyama in firing the lowest round of the tournament to share fourth place alongside 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and American Chris Stroud (13 holes) at five-under.
Day, who won the 2015 PGA Championship and finished runner-up to Jimmy Walker last year, is eager to strut his stuff at the majors for the first time this year.
The Ohio-based Queenslander has only managed top-30 results at the Masters and British Opens and he missed the cut at the US Open.
“It feels good, I’ll tell you that,” Day told AAP.
“Usually, I step up for the majors and this year has been slow for me, so being in contention is good for my confidence right now.
“But there’s still two days of golf left and I really have to focus on keeping it going.
“Going back on the previous experiences I’ve had at the PGA, I know I can (win).”
On a rain-interrupted day, which saw 25 golfers unable to complete their second rounds, Day’s dramatic second round began with an early bogey. But a stunning tap-in eagle at the par-5 seventh triggered three straight birdies before a near two-hour weather delay cruelled his momentum. He bogeyed the 11th but two more birdies earned Day his equal-lowest round relative to par at the majors in 2017.
Day and playing partner world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (70, 74) had to sprint up the 18th fairway to complete their rounds before darkness.
“To be able to finish and not have to wake up at 5.30am, get some rest is important heading into a big weekend,” Day said.
Fellow Australian Adam Scott plummeted down the leaderboard with a 76 to share 70th at five-over.
After starting day two well in the mix at even par, world No. 17 Scott sits 13 shots off the pace and on the projected five-over cut line, which will be official once all the incomplete second rounds are finished early on Saturday morning.
Marc Leishman bounced back from an opening 75 with a Friday 71 to share 61st place at four-over and is set to make the cut.
Townsville native Scott Hend finished 14 holes and at six-over will attempt to avoid an early exit on Saturday morning, but fellow Queenslander Cameron Smith’s three remaining holes won’t be enough to avoid a missed cut with a 13-over total.
Rod Pampling (77, 79) will miss the cut alongside Brisbane teaching pro Stuart Deane (84, 81).