Jason Day’s goal for the week is to widen his lead over No. 2 Jordan Spieth in the World Golf Rankings.
His goal for Thursday night was to catch more fish with son Dash.
The lake across from the clubhouse at Firestone Country Club yielded a largemouth bass on Wednesday night as Dash, who turns 4 on July 11, reeled in a smaller one, his first. Although Day is chasing a $1.62 million first-place prize in the $9.5 million World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, he relishes playing in the no-cut tournament, especially with his motor home parked right across Warner Road.
“You’re guaranteed four days, and you can come and relax and just get your money and walk off, but I don’t want to do that,” Day said. “These are kind of the weeks where I get to have some fun and go fish, and then obviously come in and not have to worry about making a cut, even if you are playing bad. You can just focus on trying to win.”
The Australian put himself in position for that by firing a 3-under-par 67 in the first round. His four-birdie, one-bogey round left him tied for second, 3 shots off the lead of 2016 Memorial Tournament winner William McGirt.
It seemed a tribute to the play of the world’s No. 1 that what seemed like a ho-hum day left him in contention. Day has raised the bar since the 2015 Canadian Open, his first of seven victories in the past 15 months that also brought his first major triumph in last year’s PGA Championship.
“Today, I don’t know, it was just kind of a weird feeling of a day where I kind of made some good pars, kept the momentum going, and all of a sudden I shot 67 and left one [short] in the heart for 66,” Day said.
“Right now, all I’m trying to do is just grind it out. I really want to get myself into contention Sunday and hopefully either have the lead or be around the lead. I’d really like to win one of these because these are big events to win. If I can win this one, it extends that lead from 1 to 2, and that’s what I’m most concerned about.”
Coming into the week, Day had 13.51 points in the World Golf Rankings, and Spieth was at 10.96. Spieth birdied the final four holes to card a 2-under 68.
Day’s best finish in his five previous Bridgestone appearances was a tie for fourth in 2011, when he shot 63 in the opening round. His second best came last year, when he tied for 12th.
On Thursday, he credited a par save from the bunker on No. 9 and another save from the bunker behind the green on the par-5 16th.
“The short game kind of overshadowed the great iron shots that I hit out there, giving myself the opportunity to make birdie. Even though I only made four birdies, it was very difficult to try and make birdies out there today, especially with the conditions of the golf course,” he said.
The field of 61 players is the smallest since 2001 and missing several top Europeans, who are competing in the Open de France in Paris. So Day sees a golden opportunity at Firestone.
“Obviously, everyone is trying to go out there and win. Some guys are happy to be in the field and stuff like that, but if you just give it that extra little bit, you can kind of pick up a cheap one,” he said. “Obviously, this is not cheap … you have [fewer] people to try and beat. If you can just really focus down and mentally prepare for that, I think you can definitely pick one up.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.