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Day fires himself into contention at Oakmont

AUSTRALIAN Jason Day has catapulted himself up the leaderboard on Saturday evening of the US Open after setting Oakmont alight.

AUSTRALIAN Jason Day has catapulted himself up the leaderboard on Saturday of the US Open after setting Oakmont alight with a 4-under 66. 

Day finished his 18 holes minutes before the horns were blown to signal suspended play because of darkness at 8:49pm (10:49am AET). He is 1-over for the tournament. 

However, with 25 players yet to complete their third rounds, another day of disjointed golf will play out on Sunday.

Even though Day is six shots behind leader Shane Lowry (who will have four holes to complete tomorrow morning), he and Zach Johnson are the highest-placed players in the chasing pack to have previously won majors. 

On the final day of a major championship, especially at the difficult Oakmont track, that experience could pay dividends. 

“If they want to go out there and they think they're ready to win a Major, then it's obviously going to be tougher because they're going to be focused and ready,” Day said outside the Oakmont clubhouse.

“It's good to have a Major under my belt, but I'm just trying to win the tournament. That's all I want to do is try to win the tournament.

“I think I've given myself an opportunity getting there. We'll see how those guys go in the morning and hopefully, I'll be there.”

Day started his third round 5-over par after completing the final three holes of his second round at 7:00am local time.

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Eight-and-a-half hours later he teed off for his third round at Oakmont Country Club and started in perfect fashion with a birdie on the 10th hole.

He made the trip back up the hill by making par on the 11th but from the 12th to the 14th Day was the talk of the tournament when he found the form that has been lacking so far this week. 

Birdies at the par-5 12th, par-3 13th and par-4 14th had the Queenslander at 1-over for the tournament and gaining ground on the leaders.

The World Number One closed out the course’s back nine with four straight pars before beginning the front with another three. 

At the 3rd hole, which played as the most difficult in the third round with an average score of almost 4.5, Day hit his tee shot way right but got a lucky break when his ball was held out of the bunker by deep rough.

He battled through the hole but missed a par putt and made his first bogey of the round.

But it was vintage Day on the par-5 4th hole. The Australian smoked his driver and followed with a pure 4-iron for his second that meant he had a great look at a three when his ball settled on the fringe seven feet from the hole.

Day read the right to left break perfectly and rolled the ball into the cup for his first eagle of the week and reached even-par for the tournament for the first time since the 2nd hole in the first round.

I got down there and I thought it would be dead straight down the hill and ended up being 90 degrees at the end, or 45,” said Day.

“It was a tough putt, but one of those ones where you pick up and you run with it because you're not really expecting to make an eagle there, especially where I was.” 

Day missed tricky birdie putts on the 5th and 6th holes but on the 7th he made a mistake off the tee that proved cosly.

His tee shot landed in the third cut of rough and eliminated any chance of reaching the par-4 green in two. 

His lay-up was just short of the greenside bunker but a clever chip shot that used the slope of the green gave him look at saving par.

Instead, he misread the speed and the putt rolled past the hole taking Day back over-par again. 

Over the next two holes Day parred the par-3 8th and the dangerous par-4 9th to sign for a 66, his second straight sub-par round of the week. 

Sitting at 1-over, Day’s aim after Friday was to reach even-par for the week and he is close to that goal now, even if Ireland’s Lowry sits at 5-under. 

I think Shane's playing some pretty good golf now," Day said. "But I can't be aggressive out there and start firing at pins and making silly mental errors. 

“If I can get to even par, great. If I can get to 1 under, great.

“I’ve got to just kind of check the boxes and try and take them as they come. Hopefully, at the end of the day, I'm under par somewhere and that definitely gives me a shot, hopefully.”

Only one player in front of Day has finished their second round, South African Branden Grace matching Day's 66 to be two shots ahead of the Australian at 1-under.

Grace will be hoping to exorcise the Sunday demons of the US Open at Chambers Bay last year when he sliced his tee shot out of bounds on the 16th.

The PGA Tour winner was within touching distance of winning his first major at the time and Oakmont this year is the perfect stage to redeem himself.

Sharing eighth with Day is Bryson DeChambeau, who finished his round, as well as Zach Johnson and Daniel Summerhays, who both have to come back tomorrow morning to finish their third rounds.

The other players inside the top 10 who will need to finish their third rounds are Scott Piercy (even-par), Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood (all 2-under) and surprise packet Andrew Landry (3-under), who is making his major tournament debut.

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