By Chris Vogt.
7:30am on moving day, and the sun already has sting. There’s a breeze, too. But it’s light, cool and welcomed by the early arrivals at The Australian. Sydneysiders have turned up all week in good numbers, promising healthy weekend crowds.
Behind the tournament village lies the chipping green. Geoff Ogilvy is working out with his wedge, flopping balls from various angles, and to a range of pins. It’s all there; the shoulder turn, the follow-through, each shot meticulously prepared for as if it were for the title. Ogilvy looks content on the course these days. He walks with purpose but seems relaxed, unperturbed, at peace. His third round, however, is stuck in low gear; he can’t get anything going and peters out to a 76.
Things are happening for Curtis Luck. The young man has vaulted into contention after four birdies on the front nine. A bogey at 10 is immediately answered by another birdie, in a display of maturity beyond his years and professional experience. Trouble awaits, but Luck holds it together to finish at two under for the tournament.
Open drawcard Jordan Spieth has struggled on the greens this week. He has the crowd with him because he’s Spieth, yet he can’t give them anything. The ball striking is solid, the course management faultless, yet he is betrayed time and again by an indifferent flatstick.
“I haven’t found the right marriage between line and speed”, is how he succinctly puts it outside the scorer’s hut. He is deflated, but still believes.
“There’s ground to be made up, and I’ll draw on memories of 2014, which worked out well for me. I’ll put everything into shooting a low one. If it’s not enough to win, at least it gives me momentum for the new year.”
Meanwhile, Jason Day is coming. He’s hovered around leader Lucas Herbert who, to much credit, has not caved. They’ve traded great shots and near-misses, but Day makes a move at 15 to slip ahead. He’s grinning like a man in control of his game, at ease in his own country, sensing an opportunity to take his first national Open. The galleries have waited years for this and sense it, too.
He promptly gives one back at 17. Herbert is bunkered front left but gets up and down. And to 18. Day leans on his driver, crushing one down the throat of 18. A two-putt birdie is better than Herbert can muster, and the lead is one heading into Sunday.
“Tomorrow will be tougher”, Day tells the assembled press afterwards, and he reckons he’ll thrive on that. “The predicted wind, the pressure, and the way Lucas is playing.” But today he played with such enthusiasm, such a sense of fun. He recently turned thirty, and wants life to be enjoyable. Winning here would kick-start a new decade for him and put to rest a tough year. Jason Day is still grinning as he walks off, thinking about today, and about tomorrow.