Emotional Jason Day in mix at PGA Champs

Jason Day is three shots off the lead after the opening round at the US PGA Championship at Missouri's Bellerive Country Club.

10-Aug-2018 By Evin Priest, Australian Associated Press
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Jason Day and Marc Leishman have played with heavy hearts to place themselves well in the mix after the first round at the US PGA Championship in Missouri.

As golf mourns the death of former US Tour player Jarrod Lyle, Day and Leishman are within striking distance of leader Gary Woodland heading into day two of the year's final major.

Day posted a three-under-par 67 at St Louis' Bellerive Country Club on Thursday to sit in a tie for fifth, just three shots back of Woodland (64), who holds a one-shot cushion over fellow American and world No.9 Rickie Fowler.

Day, the 2015 PGA Champion, choked back tears while talking to reporters about Lyle, who died Wednesday aged 36.

"He's a buddy, but he's not there anymore and he's never going to come back," said Day.

"It's heartbreaking; I've known Jarrod for a long time and my thoughts and prayers go out to (Lyle's wife) Briony and the two kids."

In an near-perfect ball-striking display, former world No.1 Day missed only one green in regulation while finding 12 of 14 fairways.

But an uncharacteristically poor display on the greens from the the US PGA Tour's No.1-ranked putter prevented an exceptional round.

"I definitely gave myself a fair share of birdie opportunities out there but didn't quite capitalise," Day said.

The 12-time US Tour winner has only bettered Thursday's driving display once, during the 2006 Barracuda Championship.

Day's career-best round for approach play was when he hit all 18 greens during the 2016 Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

Leishman is also high on the leaderboard with a 68 leaving him at two under the card and tied for 16th.

The world No.18, a close friend of Lyle, was pleased with remaining in contention despite his mind being elsewhere.

"Two under is a really good score, considering out on the course I was constantly thinking about Jarrod; it was a sad day," Leishman said.

Fellow Australian Adam Scott ground out an even-par 70 to stay in the hunt, but said the long, hot round at Bellerive took his mind off the devastating news.

"It was actually a nice escape being out on the course and not think about it," Scott said.

"Jarrod's story resonated with so many people. We hear such average news all the time and he was a shining light; it's no wonder everyone gravitated towards him."

Australian club pro Craig Hocknull finished at two-over with a 72, while countryman Cameron Smith struggled during a 74.

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