Australia’s Jason Day rolled in a 26-foot putt to complete a run of three straight birdies that vaulted him into the second-round lead after Tiger Woods suffered a back-nine meltdown at the Barclays on Friday.
The 22-year-old Queenslander fired his second successive four-under-par 67 for an eight-under 134 total and a one-stroke lead over Americans Vaughn Taylor and Kevin Streelman, who shot a sizzling 63 at the FedExCup playoffs kickoff event.
Starting his round on the 10th hole, Woods, who shared the first-round lead with Taylor after an opening 65, topped the field at eight under par as he made the turn, but suddenly lost form coming home.
The world No. 1, struggling through his worst season and looking for his first win, bogeyed the par-three second when he launched a short pitch shot from the rough through the green after a photographer snapped pictures on his backswing.
Woods missed a par putt from inside two feet for bogey at the sixth after missing another short putt to bogey the previous hole. Another bogey at the last completed a two-over-par 73 that put him at 138, four strokes behind Day.
“I hit a couple of loose iron shots, but more than anything I didn’t putt well,” said Woods, who was tied for 14th.
Day, who contended at this month’s PGA Championship until a disastrous hole late in the final round, caught fire from the fifth, his 14th hole of the day. He tapped in a two-footer and drained a seven-footer before rolling in from long distance.
The long-hitting Day said he was surprised to see Woods drop down the leaderboard.
“I saw him out there [on the leaderboard] and I knew he must be have been playing well and putting good,” said Day, the son of a Filipino mother and Australian father. “He finished four-under. I was very surprised, because he’s Tiger Woods.”
There were no fist-pumps and high-fives from Day after he stormed to the halfway lead.
The only reaction the he could muster was a wry smile, a handshake and a wave to the crowd.
Day’s subdued response could easily be misunderstood, but the 22-year-old is no introvert. On the contrary, he is part of the new generation of excitable and talented youngsters making their mark on the professional tour.
His conservative reaction was because he is suffering from a mystery illness that has left the doctors baffled and left drained of strength. He knows only too well that he needs to conserve every ounce of energy.
“Most of the guys that have been with me the whole year have known that I’ll get really tired, real weak and shaky out on the course and I just really can’t do much at all,” he told reporters.
Day said he had been suffering from the illness all year. Some doctors think he is suffering from the viral infection mononucleosis, also known as “kissing disease,” others suspect he has Lyme disease. The tests have been inconclusive.
“I’ve seen like eight doctors, can’t get a straight answer,” he said, adding he would see another doctor tomorrow and may have to cut short his season to deal with the ailment.
Day trailed compatriot John Senden by a shot until the 31-year-old from Brisbane posted double-bogey six at the 16th hole, where he had to take a drop for an unplayable lie after a shot sailed over the green and into a bush.
Senden, who had registered five birdies on the front nine, slipped to two-under 69 and was tied for fourth on six-under-par 136 along with Stewart Cink and Martin Laird of Britain, who birdied the last three holes for 67.