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Len Ziehm On Golf

No 59, but Day still builds momentum in BMW

Jason Day’s one shot at shooting a first-round 59 in the BMW Championship fizzled Friday morning. The 27-year old Australian put his approach from the rough on the green, but not in the hole, and wound up settling for a 61 in the rain-delayed first round at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.

Day still owned a four-shot lead over playing partner Jordan Spieth and five others after Round 1 and didn’t lose momentum when the second round teed off 90 minutes later. He backed up the 61 with a 63 to hit the halfway point of the 72-hole competition at 18-under-par 124 and a five-stroke lead.

The second round ended more spectacularly than the first, as Day holed a 42-foot putt for eagle at No. 18. Before that he had seven birdies that were offset by one bogey. His 36-hole score tied the lowest all-time 36-hole score in PGA Tour history, matching marks posted by David Toms and Pat Perez.

“I came in this morning and didn’t shoot 59,’’ said Day. “I thought everyone was disappointed, and it’s hard to back up a good round with another one, but we had much calmer conditions.’’

There’ll be one big difference for Day entering the second half of the tournament. His playing companions won’t be his celebrated partners of the first two days, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler – Nos. 2 and 3 behind Day in the FedEx standings. Both dropped back, Spieth now seven shots off the lead in a tie for fourth place and Fowler 11 back.

“Right now what Jason is doing on the course is something I haven’t watched or witnessed in my life,’’ said Spieth. “I feel like I should be paying to come watch some of this. It was special.’’

A red-shot 22-year old is still on Day’s heels; it’s just not Spieth. Daniel Berger went 65-64 in the first two rounds, and he had a sizzling playing partner in Brendon Todd. Todd, who strung four birdies early (holes 2-5), holed a lob wedge shot from 83 yards for eagle on his last hole for a 63 to join Berger at 13-under-par 129.

Day, Todd and Berger will now be in the featured final group Saturday, as more rain in the forecast forced PGA Tour officials to again alter the schedule. Instead of going with the planned earlier start with twosomes play will again begin at both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at 10 a.m. with players going off in threesomes.

Scores figured to be low in the second round after two inches of rain doused the Conway layout overnight. That softened the greens, and necessitated the use of the lift, clean and place rule on the fairways.

“We had optimal scoring chances,’’ said Todd, who wasn’t the only one to take advantage. Dustin Johnson had the day’s low round, a 62, and Kevin Na, Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson all matched Todd’s 63.

“A course that’s as soft as this, the wind has died down and it’s not overly long,’’ said Rory McIlroy, the No. 2 ranked player in the world who shot 65. “The par for us out here really should be 67 or 66.’’

Berger, in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, and Todd started the week outside of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup rankings. Only the top 30 go to the final event, The Tour Championship next week in Atlanta. Berger started at No. 46 and Todd at No. 48. Both are winless on the PGA Tour but looking forward to playing with the red-hot Day.

“I played well with him last year on Sunday of the British Open,’’ said Todd. “We have a great rapport. When someone is playing as well as he is, sometimes it takes the pressure off of you and you just got out there and play your game. Hopefully I feed off of his momentum just like Daniel and I did the last couple days.’’

Berger was paired with Day two weeks ago in the Deutsche Bank Championship, second event of the playoffs, in Boston. Day was coming off a win at The Barclays, the first event in the playoffs.

“The funnest part about playing with Jason is the crowds,’’ said Berger. “You’ve got thousands of people watching you. For a young guy like myself, that’s the most fun. I thrive off playing with good players, and it’s going to be fun to experience that again.’’