Like when pros get stomped? Well, one said Wells Fargo was like ‘a boxing match.’
Jason Day rolled his eyes, then shook his head. He had just begun the second half of his round at TPC Potomac, when his glove dampened. Again. But he and caddie Luke Reardon had come prepared. Day ducked under his umbrella, which was operating as a makeshift clothesline, and he plucked a fresher glove from the half-dozen or so that were hanging above him.
How challenging were the conditions on Saturday just outside of Washington, during the Wells Fargo Championship third round? Yes, even rain equipment had to work harder than usual.
Already Potomac was no pushover. But throw in rain, wind, low temperatures, and, well, what did you have out there, Aniban Lahiri?
“It feels like I’ve just gone 12 rounds in a pro boxing match.”
Let’s try to unpack the carnage.
What was it like out there?
If you were there, your wet hat, shirt, pants, socks and shoes can tell you, as can your icy hands. Potomac has been covered by rain clouds over the past two days, and if water wasn’t hitting your head, you were stepping in it, as the course — though through no fault of tireless workers — was water-logged.
Couple that temps in the high 40s and a 15 mph wind, and you wouldn’t be faulted if you thought Thanksgiving was in a few weeks, not Memorial Day. Which made hitting a golf ball about as easy as hitting a frozen turkey.
Said Max Homa of playing partner Day: “On 13 tee, he hit a driver, and it looked like he hit it awesome, and where I thought it was going to land and where it did land, I was off by about 30 yards. He was, too. He came over talking about how short it went to his caddie. It helped because there’s a bunker out there we try not to get to, and I realized I was not going to get anywhere near it.”
Said Lahiri: “You’re fighting everything — you’re fighting your body, the elements, the water, the cold, the conditions. Yeah, it’s tough work, and you just have to grit your teeth and kind of grind it out.”
So, yeah, like he said, a boxing match.
What were the scores like?
The damage done (and we’ll get to Day’s day in a sec):
— 24 players — over a third of those who made the cut — shot five-over 75 or worse.
— Joel Dahmen, who was a shot off the first-round lead after a 64, shot a 76, which followed his second-round 75.
— Kevin Chappell started double, bogey, bogey, triple, double, par, bogey — for a 10-over-par total through seven. He finished with a 79.
— Michael Thompson matched his front-nine 41 with a back-nine 41.
— Three holes — 5, 9 and 14 — played under par. Two holes — 4 and 15 — yielded just one birdie.
— The scoring average was 73.662 (+3.662), which, according to the PGA Tour, was the highest average relative to par since the fourth round at the 2020 U.S. Open, at Winged Foot.
“Just get around, just literally just any way possible,” said Matthew Fitzpatrick, who shot a one-over 71. “You’re not really looking to make birdies; you’re not chasing. It’s probably why I feel like I play better in these conditions, because I’m not maybe as aggressive and I’m just trying to get around really and not trying to chase a score or anything. Yeah, that’s the mentality I had today.”
What happened to Jason Day?
Before we dive into Day’s round, this should be said first: The man talked after his round. Others, most certainly, would not have.
“Unfortunately I just didn’t have my stuff today,” he said. “Just trying to think. I made a lot of errors out there and hitting into penalty areas. It’s OK. I’ve just got to get back to it tomorrow and try and find some positives from the first two days going into tomorrow’s round.”
He summed it up well. Entering the day with a three-shot lead, Day left it trailing by seven. After pars on 1 and 2, he bogeyed 3; tripled 4 after hitting his tee shot into the water; bogeyed 5 after dropping another tee shot into the drink; bogeyed 9; doubled 10 after needing a penalty drop after his second shot; and doubled 15 and 16 — for a nine-over 79.
Notably, according to golf stats guru Justin Ray, no 36-hole leader or co-leader has shot 80 or worse in a Tour event since the 2007 Masters. There, Brett Wetterich shot an 83, and the other co-leader, Tim Clark, shot an 80.
How did Keegan Bradley take the lead?
Let’s try to wrap things up positively. As noted above, Bradley was one of four players to break par, and his three-under 67 gave him a two-stroke advantage over Homa entering Sunday.
So … what’s the secret?
“Yeah, when the conditions get like this, I find a sense of calm just because I’m sort of worried about other things, keeping my clubs dry and my bag dry,” Bradley said. “Sort of keeps me in the present. I did that today, and I just had a great time with my caddie Scotty, we just — we’re a good team, and we did a lot of good things today.”
Staying in the present was a theme. Cliche? Yes. But hear the players out. Especially Lahiri, who shot a 70 and is four back, with Hahn.
“Again, lots of cliches going around, but you just have to think about the next shot because it’s hard to commit to shots, it’s hard to make decisions,” he said. “So you have to get really clear before you pull the trigger what exactly you’re trying to do, and that’s almost the easy part because executing it is no joke.
“Like I said, you’re fighting a lot of elements, including how your body’s doing, including everything else that’s going on. You just try and stay in the moment and find your ball and hit it and try and think of, OK, where do I put it next. Unless you have the perfect club and the perfect lie and all the stars line up, I don’t even know if you’re going at too many flags because the chances of you walking away dropping a few shots are very high. You’re just trying to position yourself in places where you can have a legitimate look at birdie, but you want to be on the side where you’re not going to make a big number because it’s easy to do that.”