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Jason Day continues recent improvement with early PGA lead

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Jason Day of Australia, watches his tee shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Jason Day is on a pretty good run for a guy who hasn’t won a tournament in two years.

The 32-year-old Australian has finished in the top 10 in three straight tournaments heading into this week’s PGA Championship in San Francisco. Day, who won the PGA in 2015 for his only major victory, was the leader in the clubhouse midway through Thursday’s opening round after shooting a 5-under-par 65 at the 7,251-yard TPC Harding Park.

“I feel like the momentum that I’ve had over the last three starts has kind of seeped into this week,” Day said. ”The funny thing is that every day I’m excited to go back to the golf course and play. Whereas before I was struggling to get up, and going, ’Oh, do I want to kind of put myself through this again?’

“To be honest, I’m excited to get out and play every week now.”

Day won the 2015 PGA at Whistling Straits and was runner up the next year at Baltusrol during a two-year period in which he claimed eight tour victories and spent 51 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world. But he hasn’t seriously contended in a major since and has won just two tour events — the last in 2018.

Struggling with a back injury that forced him to skip the Presidents Cup in Australia in December, Day fell out of the top 50 for the first time in 10 years after missing the cut at the Colonial in June, the first tournament back after the coronavirus shutdown. To shake things up, he parted ways last month with longtime coach Colin Swatton, who had been guiding his game — and his life — since taking Day in as a rambunctious 12-year-old whose father had died.

Something clicked for Day in Ohio last month, when he finished tied for seventh and fourth in back-to-back weekends at Muirfield Village. Next was a six-place finish in Memphis.

“I finally had enough of feeling sorry for myself, and it’s easy to do that in this game because it is so mentally tough. You can start blaming everything else but yourself,” Day said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to pull your pants up and just move on, you know.”

A handful of golfers flirted with 5 under on Thursday, but Day was the only one who made it stick. He played bogey-free golf, and moved into the lead with a 6-foot birdie putt on his last hole, the 515-yard, par-4 ninth, which had been the second-hardest hole on the course over the morning round.

“I feel like the game is slowly coming around,” he said. “The confidence is coming around because I’m starting to see the results.”

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