Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - Introducing Jason Day, the leader of the PGA Championship who is trying desperately to play catch-up.
As odd as it sounds, that is the way it seems. Given the major championship history that he and Jordan Spieth both have, it feels like Day is the one chasing the golfer who is two strokes behind him. That is what happens when you've been a witness to history as often as Day has.
The affable, resilient Australian was right there, on the grounds and so close to the title, when countryman Adam Scott won the 2013 Masters. Day was playing alongside Rory McIlroy during the third round of the PGA Championship last year, which McIlroy won (Day is best remembered for having TV personality David Feherty find his ball in swampy rough).
Day was part of Spieth's march to the U.S. Open championship at Chambers Bay, and it was Spieth who came over to help when Day went down on the 18th fairway because of what was later diagnosed as a viral ear infection. Who was it that was playing with Dustin Johnson on the final round of that same tournament, when Johnson three-putted the championship away to Spieth?
At the majors, there never is a dull day for Day. Up to now, he has been close enough to taste it, only to have left feeling empty. So it was an understatement when he said Saturday night, "A number of things can happen, especially on a final round of a major championship."
But that's just the way he is, earnest and optimistic. He feels fine, thanks to medication, and he has no qualms about holding the lead. He said that the birdie on No. 17 is a fresher memory than the double bogey on No. 15.
"I've done all the hard work right now to get into contention, to have his lead," said the golfer who is 15 under par after shooting 6-under 66 Saturday. "So tomorrow, I just need to be patient with myself, I need to make sure that I stay disciplined to my targets. It's all the boring stuff, really, that you don't want to hear. But it's really the honest truth that I'm trying to get out, because I can't get in my own way."
You do have to wonder if Spieth has done enough this season to make other golfers hear footsteps. Maybe it was just the pressure, maybe it was coincidence, but players who had been stellar or flawless all day crashed on the rocks late Saturday while Spieth was shooting a back-nine 30.
They said the philosophical things you've always heard from guys who fell by the wayside against the greats (whose names we won't mention, because that would make it sound like we are comparing Spieth to them and he's not in their class yet).
For instance, there was Matt Jones, who held a three-stroke lead on the field early Saturday. At the end, he was saying: "I'm still in it. I'm definitely not out of it. I have to shoot a very good round tomorrow . . . I didn't play great today, I got away with it on the front nine and made a couple of good birdies on the back nine."
". . . Golf runs like that, and it got me in the end."
Maybe this time, Day will be the one who gets the good ending. Despite all of his close calls -- 10 top-10 finishes in majors, beginning with the 2010 PGA here -- he never has entered the last round of a major ahead.
"The U.S. Open I was tied for the lead this year going into the last day. But to have a two-stroke lead is pretty sweet," he said. "You can never count out Jordan right now with how he's playing. He's just full of confidence right now . . . Tomorrow is just going to be fun."
"It really is going to be a lot of fun. I'm really excited just to get to tomorrow."
This time, if he is to be a witness to history, Day wants to be the one making it. Could happen, if he only can catch the guy trailing him.