NORTON, Mass. – The final hole gave Jason Day a one-shot lead in the Deutsche Bank Championship. The final hour gave him a good idea of what he might expect for the Labor Day finish.
Day walked off the 15th green with a three-shot lead Sunday, feeling good about separating himself from the field.
It was gone in two holes.
Then came the par-5 18th, where Day stood just off the back of the green in two as he watched Brandt Snedeker make a mess of the easiest hole on the TPC Boston by hitting his approach into the hazard and his fourth shot in deep grass short of the green.
“I was thinking that he was going to just get up-and-down and make bogey, and I was going to make an eagle or birdie,” Day said. “That would have given me a nice little cushion going into tomorrow.”
It just didn’t work out that way.
Day capped off an exciting day with a routine birdie for a 5-under 66. In another strange twist Sunday, the largest cheer was for the guy who made par. Snedeker chipped in and shot 67, leaving him one shot behind.
“It would have been a tough way to end the day as well as I played coming in,” Snedeker said.
Just like so many other times at this tournament, the Deutsche Bank Championship could be up for grabs.
And so could the No. 1 ranking.
Tiger Woods could only manage one birdie over the last 11 holes and shot a 2-under 69, leaving him tied for 23rd and 10 shots out of the lead. That set the stage for Phil Mickelson or Steve Stricker to end Woods’ five-year run atop the Official World Golf Ranking
Stricker is closer to the lead. Mickelson has better odds.
Both of them might have a tough time catching up to Day, the 22-year-old Australian who won the Byron Nelson Championship in May and is starting to play his best golf during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Day was at 17-under 196, matching the 54-hole record at the TPC Boston set by Mike Weir two years ago.
Luke Donald, winless on the PGA Tour in more than four years, was steady again in his first tournament since being picked for Europe’s Ryder Cup team. He birdied the last hole for a 66 and was two shots behind.
Defending champion Stricker played his third straight round without a bogey for a 67 and was at 13-under 200 with Charley Hoffman (69).
Mickelson was in a group at 201 that included Geoff Ogilvy (65), who hasn’t finished in the top 10 since winning the season-opening SBS Championship; and Adam Scott (65), who won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2003.
Snedeker was three shots behind going to the 16th tee when he made consecutive birdies – Day three-putted the 16th – to share the lead. But the final hole – the easiest at the TPC Boston with a tail wind – nearly got him. He didn’t hit enough club and went into the hazard, and after taking a penalty drop, his fourth shot barely cleared the hazard and stayed in the rough.
Snedeker set off one of the loudest cheers of the day when he chipped in to escape with par.
But this was a day for plenty of noise.
Vijay Singh made the rarest shot in golf – an albatross – when he holed a 5-iron from 229 yards on the par-5 second hole for a cheer that resounded across the front nine.
“I hit it just like I wanted to and was hoping it was going to get up on the green somewhere, and it went in the hole,” said Singh, who had a 69 and was right on the bubble for getting into the third round next week at the BMW Championship.
It was the second straight year someone made an albatross on that hole, with John Senden doing it a year ago.
Mickelson felt like he was back in 2009, too.
A year ago on the 15th hole, facing a front left pin, he banged his approach off the flag and watched it roll off the green. He was determined not to let that happen again and said he told his caddie, “I’m going to try to just miss the pin.”
He missed his mark – and hit the pin.
The ball spun around, caught the false front and rolled into the rough. Instead of getting mad, Mickelson got even. He chipped in for a birdie, and gave his biggest fist pump of the day.
“That was a fun little moment, because that stuff happens,” Mickelson said.
This is the 10th tournament this year that Mickelson has had a mathematical chance of replacing Woods at No. 1 in the world, and one of his better chances. He was four shots behind going into the final round at Firestone and shot 78.
This time, Mickelson might only need to finish in fourth place alone, provided Woods is out of the top 24. And this time, he is far more confident in his driving, with only his iron play needing to get a little more sharp.
“I haven’t paid attention to what needs to happen,” Mickelson said. “But I’m looking forward to getting in the hunt tomorrow and seeing if I can get off to a good start and make some birdies.”
Woods keeps making progress, although not on the leaderboard.
He got off to a good start and got within four shots of the leaders – before they had teed off – until he stopped making putts. Woods made a difficult flop shot behind the 18th green look easy, hitting it to a foot for birdie. He appears safe to advance to the third round of the playoffs next week at Cog Hill, where he is the defending champion.
“I think I played better than what my score indicated,” Woods said. “I had a lot of putts that I didn’t make.”
Winning will have to wait, though. For the third consecutive tournament, Woods was at least nine shots out of the lead.