Jason Day of Australia reacts to his eagle putt on the 16th green during the third round of The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club on in Edison, New Jersey. (AFP)
AFP/Edison, New Jersey
PGA Champion Jason Day and Bae Sang-Moon jumped on the birdie bandwagon on Saturday, both firing seven-under-par 63 to share the 54-hole lead at the Barclays.
Australia’s Day, who captured his first major title at Whistling Straits two weeks ago, had six birdies and an eagle with just one bogey as he joined playing partner Bae on 11-under-par 199 at Plainfield Country Club.
Bae, who birdied four of his first seven holes, finished with nine birdies and two bogeys for his share of a one-stroke lead over two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Watson, who held a one-stroke overnight lead, carded a three-under-par 67 for 200, giving him sole possession of third place, one stroke in front of British Open champion Zach Johnson (67), Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (67) and Ryan Palmer (65).
Day said Bae’s hot start—with birdies at the first, third, fifth and seventh, helped him get going, too.
“It was a good day,” he said. “To be able to have Sang-Moon get off to a good start, he hit it great all day. We’re kind of feeding off each other, drafting off each other there today.”
Day said he knew that good scores were to be had after Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz went out early and posted an eight-under-par 62 and England’s Justin Rose fired a 63.
The 27-year-old Aussie, who started the tournament battling nagging back trouble, rolled in a 17-footer for eagle at the 16th and after promptly giving a stroke back with a bogey at 17, birdied the last.
“There’s still 18 holes to go,” Day said. “It’s going to be very difficult tomorrow.
“I’ve just got to keep pushing, because the moment that you’re satisfied with a score is the moment that you mentally kind of take a break and you start making mistakes.”
Bae ended a run of three straight birdies at 14, 15, 16 with a bogey of his own at 17, but like Day he capped his round with a birdie.
“I made a lot of birdie putts,” said Bae, who is trying to play well enough to get the nod for the International team for the Presidents Cup, which will be played in South Korea in October. “The putter worked really good today. I had a really, really solid round.”
Bae, who last month lost his bid to have his mandatory two-year military service in South Korea deferred, said he preferred to keep his mind on golf this week, rather than the approaching start of that service.
“I have to go back. So that is a few weeks later,” Bae said. “So I just want to play good golf this week and really want to play Presidents Cup in my country.”
A win this week would put Bae in the top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings and secure his spot on the International team.
A solid performance might still earn him selection by International captain Nick Price.
Belgium’s Pieters wins first EPGA tournament
Belgian youngster Thomas Pieters won his first EPGA tournament yesterday as he surged to a three-shot victory at the Czech Masters. The 23-year-old from Antwerp came into the final day with a one shot lead and kept his nerve down the stretch with a rock solid three under par round of 69 to finish on 20-under and relegate Sweden’s Pelle Edberg into second. Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick carded an excellent final round of four under 68 to lie alone in third place, four shots behind the champion. “I can’t really explain it right now, it’s stuff you dream about but I’ve worked really hard and it’s great to get this first win under my belt so early in my career,” said the big-hitting right hander. “My family drove all night to be here even if I told them not to come because I thought it might make me nervous but it’s great that they’re here.
“I tried to stay calm early in the round even after I made double bogey (at the third) but I managed to regain my focus. Coming down the stretch over those last couple holes, I was pretty nervous but we’re going to celebrate tonight (Sunday),” he added. Englishman Robert Dinwiddie came home fourth on 14-under and six back while three players including Italian Renato Paratore, Roope Kakko of Finland and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen were a further three strokes back and tied for fifth.
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy had one of the best rounds of the day and climbed into a tie for eighth on 10-under following a five under 67.
Formerly known as the Czech Open, the tournament became the Czech Masters in 2014 and is played at the lush par-72 Albatross Golf Club in Prague.
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