Golf: Last chance saloon is fun for Day

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The Independent Online
IT WAS just not Glen Day's week at the Players' Championship. He had his allotted span of 24 hours by holing his second shot at the 18th at Sawgrass for an eagle to lead after the first round. But though Day took the lead in the final round, he could not withstand the charge by Justin Leonard's putter.

Day played for a few years in Europe and was one of the unlucky ones to lose out to Paul Azinger in a five-man play-off for the BMW International in 1992. The 32-year-old from Little Rock in Arkansas was also second at the 1994 Anheuser-Busch Classic on his first year on the US tour, but his runner-up finish, tied with Tom Lehman, at Sawgrass gave Day his biggest ever pay-out of $352,000 (pounds 210,000).

That sum exceeded his season earnings in all but one of his four years on the US circuit. But there is one thing money cannot buy, a place in the US Masters, the first major of the year to be held in Augusta next week.

All the winners on the US tour from the last Masters earn an invitation so New Orleans, which has saloons of all types and especially featuring jazz, also represents one of the last chance variety. With many of those who have already qualified for Augusta taking the week off, the probability of the winner on Sunday having an extra-broad smile are quite high.

Day certainly showed he was determined to extend his time in the sunshine, not just to a fortnight but to three weeks, by scoring an opening 64, eight under par. His was a round of a two-third and a one-third, eight birdies coming by the 12th hole starting with a holed bunker shot at the first, followed by six pars to take an early two-stroke lead over Jay Delsing. "My job is to do the best I can in this tournament," Day said, "and if I take care of business here, good things will come."

Per-Ulrik Johansson, the first European to tee off, made four birdies in a 71, but Lee Westwood was continuing his fine American form with four birdies in his first 15 holes. Without looking like dropping a shot, Westwood went out in 34, with a birdie at the short par-four fourth when he pitched to two feet, and leaving his long, uphill eagle putt at the sixth within six inches of the hole.

A three-putt at the other par-five on the front nine, the second, was his only blemish on the long holes as he also made birdies on the two par-fives on the back nine.