Patience buoys resurgent day

Australian world No. 3 says lack of urgency is the reason for his Bay Hill opening-round 66

MIAMI • While golf's top-ranked players have piled up creditable wins in the early part of the season, Jason Day has been largely quiet.

The world No. 3 took a three-month break at the end of last year and on his return finished 15 shots behind world No. 1 Jordan Spieth at Kapalua, missed the cut at Torrey Pines, was eight shots back at Pebble Beach and seven at Doral.

He took four more weeks' break during that period, during which the main sporting excitement in his life came when National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James knocked his wife Ellie over while she was sitting courtside with him and enjoying a Cleveland Cavaliers game.

But, after an opening-round 66 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Thursday, the Australian has become top news again.

His round included seven birdies and an eagle, and at six under he holds a one-shot lead over a pack of players that includes two of his countrymen, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Americans Troy Merritt and Brendan Steele.

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER

Any time you're shooting six under, especially at a golf course like this (Bay Hill), with how tough everything is, it does wonders for your confidence.

JASON DAY, on his stellar opening round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

"Any time you're shooting six under, especially at a golf course like this (Bay Hill), with how tough everything is, it does wonders for your confidence," said Day.

The start of tournaments has proved particularly difficult for him, as he has trailed by at least five shots after the opening round of his last five tournaments.

In fact, his opener at Bay Hill was his first sub-70 opening round since the Tour Championship.

"There was no sense of urgency at all for me, really," he said. "I just kept on saying, 'Just make sure you stay patient and things will happen. It will happen.'"

While that patience was somewhat tested by a hooked tee shot that led to a double bogey on No. 9, Day's round was otherwise relatively stress-free.

He played Bay Hill's four par-5s in 5 under, and he closed with a pair of up-and-downs.

"It was one of those days where everything kind of went well," said Day, who at the par-four 15th punched a 150-yard shot under a tree branch that ran between greenside bunkers to finish pin high for his birdie putt.

The Australian indeed did everything right, as two-time defending champion Matt Every shot a 71, while world No. 2 Rory McIlroy was tied for 107th in the 120-man field after a 75.

At the LPGA Founders Cup in Phoenix, Arizona, South Korea's Lee Mi Hyang fired a tournament-record 10-under 62 in the opening round to seize a one-stroke lead, as women's golf legend Pak Se Ri announced her retirement after this season.

American Brittany Lang and South Korean Kim Sei Young shared second on 63 with Italy's Giulia Sergas another stroke adrift.

Pak, 38, the first player from South Korea to play on the women's elite tour and winner of five Majors and 25 LPGA crowns, said: "It's pretty hard to make (the) decision to retire.

"But I have so many successes and I'm trying to share all my skills and all these dreams (with younger players).

"I loved playing golf but now I have another dream. So this is my last year."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

StarHub Ch204, tomorrow, 12.30am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Patience buoys resurgent day'. Print Edition | Subscribe