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Day in the hunt as PGA Tour title shootout looms

Jason Day has positioned himself to contend for a season-opening victory on the PGA Tour as a low-scoring Sunday shootout looms in Hawaii.

Australia's former world No.1 got rolling on the back nine to shoot a six-under 67 third round in the elite The Sentry tournament at Kapalua on Saturday.

Day will go into the final round tied sixth and three shots behind American leader Chris Kirk, who posted a 66 to get to 21 under.

The 36-year-old Day is starting his 17th season on the tour with more of the strong form that boosted his resurgence in 2023 as he climbed to world No.19.

After a slow start to Saturday's round he posted five back-nine birdies to maintain his challenge for a 14th PGA Tour title.

Low scoring has become the norm on the Plantation course at Kapalua, even with stronger trade winds. Different about this year is the number of players still with a chance.

That includes 21-year-old Akshay Bhatia, in his first full year on the PGA Tour, who is one shot from the lead after a 66 and Xander Schauffele (65) and Jordan Spieth (67), both past champions at Kapalua, who are tied third with Byeong Hun An (68) at 19 under.

And it still includes Scottie Scheffler, the world No.1, who didn't see many putts go in the hole and had to settle for a 71 but was still only three off the lead and tied with Day, Harris English (64) and Sahith Theegala (68). 

Throw in Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa, and 12 players are within four shots of the lead.

Kirk was the PGA Tour's comeback player of the year in 2023 from winning the Honda Classic after having stepped away for a big part of 2019 to deal with alcoholism and depression.

He was ready to face plenty of challengers.

"You certainly can't protect anything out here, that's for sure," Kirk said. "When it's a shootout like this and the scores are really low, you just stay aggressive and just go do your thing."

Bhatia, who secured his PGA Tour card through the minor leagues and then won the Barracuda Championship, took only 27 putts for the second straight day.

Five years ago Schauffele closed with a 62 to rally for victory at Kapalua and Spieth won by eight shots here in 2016.

They know no lead is safe.

"Definitely keep your head down," Schauffele said. "There's really no point looking at a leaderboard early on a property like this." 

with The AP

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