PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day didn’t pan out as a team at the recent Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but they were finally singing the same song on Thursday at the Players Championship.
Their opening nine, the back side of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, was a soft and sweet melody. They combined for seven birdies and no bogeys, capitalizing on benign conditions and racing out to the front of the leaderboard.
Their closing nine was harsher on the eardrums. While Day bogeyed three of his last four hole, Fowler made double bogey on No. 6.
After the dust settled, they had matched 2-under 70s and put themselves in solid position heading into Friday. They aren’t officially playing as a team like they did in New Orleans, where they missed the cut in the two-man team event, but the energy and harmony are there.
“Unfortunately, I was sick the week before Zurich,” Fowler said. “It would have been nice if Jason and I could have played a little bit better as a team and I wish I could have helped him a little bit more. It’s nice to be back to being healthy and having my strength back.”
Fowler, the 2015 Players champion, has recovered physically and Day, the defending Players champion, has recovered emotionally. Day’s mother, Dening, underwent surgery for lung cancer in late March and her condition has improved since, giving the 29-year-old Australian peace of mind.
For Day, it feels good – and different – to be back in contention at a significant event.
“It kind of felt weird because I haven’t really been in the position recently, actually going out there and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard and stuff like that,” Day said. “But with that being said, you always have to start somewhere and try and build on it.”