Day overcomes vertigo to tie three others for lead at U.S. Open

Jun 21, 2015 2:44 AM by Ross Field


UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. - The toughest test in golf met one tough player Saturday at the U.S. Open.

Jason Day had every reason to withdraw when he collapsed on the final hole of his second round with a nasty bout of vertigo. He gave it his best shot under the stiffest conditions yet at Chambers Bay. The vertigo returned on the back nine, along with nausea. When he turned his head toward the target, he had to wait for his eyes to stop dancing before he could swing. He thought about quitting three times.

And it was worth it.

With three birdies on the last four holes, Day staggered off the course with a 2-under 68 and his name atop the leaderboard. He was part of a four-way tie with Masters champion Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Branden Grace of South Africa.

One day after his collapse, Day was standing taller than ever.

"That was the greatest round I've ever watched," said Colin Swatton, his caddie and longtime coach who whispered words of encouragement along the hilly terrain of Chambers Bay. "I said, ‘You've got the heart of a lion. You get to show the world today you get to be the greatest you can be and look, let's do it.' And he just put his head down and kept walking, one foot in front of the other. It was pretty impressive."

And now he gets to play in the final group of a major for the first time.

All it took was a performance that brought to mind Ken Venturi winning the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964 with a 36-hole final while suffering from heat exhaustion and severe dehydration, and Tiger Woods winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 with a shattered left leg.

Day still has one day to go and a course that is getting faster and scarier by the day. And he has plenty of company.

Spieth had four three-putts, missed birdie chances inside 12 feet on the last three holes and still wound up in a tie for the lead with a 71 as he tries to become only the fourth player since 1960 to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam. The others were Woods (2002), Jack Nicklaus (1972) and Arnold Palmer (1960).

"I didn't have my best stuff today but still tied for the lead, and I've had my best stuff at times this week, and I'm pretty sure I know where it is and how to get it tomorrow and get ready to go," Spieth said.

Johnson gets a fourth shot at his first major. He also wasted good birdie chances with his power - a tee shot that landed on the front of the green at the 372-yard 16th hole (three-putt par) and a big drive on the par-5 18th. He hit 3-iron into a bunker and made par for a 70.

Johnson also was in position to win the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and the 2011 British Open.

"I've been in the situation a few times, so I know how to handle myself," he said. "I know what it takes to get it done. And tomorrow I just need to go out there and focus one shot at a time. And we'll see what happens."

Grace overcame a rough patch in the middle of his round - three bogeys in five holes - and shot a 70. The leaders were at 4-under 206.

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