Jason Day is a step closer to fulfilling a lifetime dream of winning his national Open—not to mention winning his first tournament of any sort in 18 months.
The 30-year-old navigated tricky, gusty winds on Saturday at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney, shooting a two-under 69 and taking a one-stroke advantage on 36-hole leader countryman Lucas Herbert at the Australian Open.
While the one-shot margin is slim, the psychological plus of being the man out front is something that appeals to Day, who throughout the week has not shied from talking about his desire to win this event at home for the first of what he hopes will be multiple times in his career.
“That’s the thing, you have to learn to love the lead,” Day said. “A lot of guys through some of their careers have learned to win from behind because there’s less pressure than being out in front. I mean, this is a great position to be in. You always learn from being in this position, no matter what the tournament is. I’d much rather be in this position than one stroke back.”
In the last 13 tournaments that Day has been out front entering the final round, he has won just six times. However, he has closed things out successfully in five of his last six.
Sleeping on the lead was tricky for Herbert, an up-and-coming 21-year-old who shot a respectable Saturday 71 to remain very much in contention.
“I don’t know how I slept last night,” Herbert said. “It’s like trying to drink three cans of Red Bull and then trying to sleep. But after I made a couple of pars at the start it cooled the nerves and I was good to go.”
Indeed, Herbert was playing well until a double bogey on the 11th hole erased at the time a two-stroke edge.
Day, meanwhile, was bidding his time, making pars on his first 13 holes before getting up-and-down from the sand on the reachable par-5 14th hole, then following it with another birdie on the 15th hole. A bogey on the 17th hole was offset by a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th.
The trick, of course, now for Day is to handle to internal pressure he’s already put on himself this week.
“You can look at it, the names on the cup, a lot of all of fame members, great players, a lot of future hall of fame members on that cup as well,” Day said. “It’d be nice to add my name to that list as well, but the hardest thing for me is you don’t want to get ahead of yourself.”