JASON Day seems unlikely to start his 2017 with a victory after falling eight shots off the pace with one round remaining at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The World Number One posted a 3-under 70 Saturday to reach double digits under par for the tournament but at minus 10 through 54 holes is eight behind third round leader Justin Thomas.
The 23-year-old Thomas, who signed for a third consecutive 67 to be 18-under, holds a two shot lead over Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama with first round leader Jimmy Walker part of a three way tie for third at 14-under.
For Day it was a third straight round of what might have been with five birdies on his card offset by two clumsy bogeys.
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The 29-year-old missed back to back makeable putts for par at the 13th and 14th, his work on the greens this week not up to the standard he set last year.
After 54 holes the Queenslander has a negative strokes gained putting statistic though it’s been a positive return to the game after more than three months off.
Day is the best of the four Australians in the field at T13 with Rod Pampling 7-under and T20, Greg Chalmers 6-under and T24 and Aaron Baddeley 2-under for the week and T28 in the 32 player field.
An Australian victory seems unlikely though Day will no doubt be harbouring memories of the blistering 11-under 62 he produced on Sunday at The Plantation Course two years ago to almost force his way into a playoff for the title.
However, there will be no shortage of drama in the final round as Matsuyama, the hottest player in the game at the end of the 2016 season, and first round leader and Hawaii specialist Jimmy Walker try to chase down the young gun Thomas.
“Justin doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game,” said Matsuyama after posting the equal best round of the day, a 7-under 66.
“He hits it long, has a marvelous short game, putts well, hits the ball well. We've got to go low tomorrow to be able to catch him.
“(But) I do have a lot of confidence right now, and confidence going into tomorrow's round. There's still a few weak links that I need to work on. Hopefully that won't be a bother tomorrow and we'll play well.”
For Walker Saturday was a frustrating affair as he continued to strike the ball beautifully but struggled to make much of his opportunities.
“Just didn't make the putts I needed to make,” was his glum assessment after signing for a 3-under 70.
“Hit it really good. Plenty of looks. Nothing went in. That's just kind of frustrating, especially the finish.
“I'd like to go and make a few more putts tomorrow. I feel like I'm hitting it really solid and giving myself plenty of looks. So keep doing that tomorrow.”
Leader Thomas also felt like he left several shots on the course and while pleased with 67 felt it could have been much lower.
“I was trying to get to 20 (under),” he said after the round. “I felt like that was very, very doable. I easily could have.
“I feel like I could be at 22 or 23, just as easy, as well. I just was trying to make birdies. It's a course where you can just get so hot. You can realistically, 11 can be a tough hole, and 17 is a tough hole.
“But other than that, you've got a wedge in your hand or you're looking at a lot of birdie holes and potentially eagle holes.”
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