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Big Three Of Day, Spieth And McIlroy Seem To Have Hit A Major Bump

Jason Day of Australia hits a shot during a practice round prior to the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 27, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey.
Jason Day of Australia hits a shot during a practice round prior to the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on July 27, 2016 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Drew Hallowell / Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — For an appetizer, there was a mixed green salad with Jersey beefsteak tomatoes. For the entrée, there was a grilled prime rib-eye steak with mashed potatoes, broccoli, asparagus and demi-glace.

The dessert? Chocolate molten lava cake and vanilla ice cream. The menu at the PGA Champions' Dinner on Tuesday night was Jason Day's call. What happened afterward certainly wasn't.

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Day's wife Ellie had an allergic reaction and had to be taken to a nearby hospital.

"We were there until 2 o'clock," Day said Wednesday morning at Baltusrol Golf Club. "So I'm kind of running on E right now.

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"She was kind of freaking out in the back of the bus, which is understandable, because she got all red. I've been in that situation before when I first ate seafood. That's why I don't eat seafood anymore. I started swelling up and I looked like Hitch in that movie."

After his experience, Day said he was able to remain relatively calm. Ellie, who was bowled over by LeBron James in December during a Cavs game and taken to the hospital with concussion symptoms, understandably wasn't as calm.

"She's like, 'Call 911! Call 911!' I'm trying to look for Benadryl and we didn't have any," Day said. "We ended up calling 911. The paramedics came and looked after her, which was great. She's fine now. We had a little loss of sleep, but we're fine."

The hard question now is will Day, 2015 PGA Championship titlist and No. 1 ranked player in the world, be fine this week at Baltusrol Golf Club?

Since the event went to stroke play in 1958, Tiger Woods is the only player to have won back-to-back years. Yet it goes beyond the difficult odds of any individual winning in a field of 156. Day spoke at the dinner about how much it meant winning the Wanamaker Trophy and his first major last August at Whistling Straits. Yet it goes beyond the drama and pressure, too.

This could be a matter of energy. We'll have to see if Day is burned out. He decided to play the RBC Canadian Open after the British Open. It was hot and humid, extremely hot and humid, at Glen Abbey. He already had planned to take off Monday to recuperate. He hadn't planned to take off Tuesday, too. His kids, Dash and Lucy, have been sick and he caught what they had.

"Dash passed that on to me a little bit," Day said. "But I'm OK."

Day is a protégé of Woods. And like Woods, he is fastidious in his preparation. Before a major, he usually will arrive at the course on Friday, a full week before the first round. He loves to scout every inch of a course. He'll play maybe nine holes a day. If anything, he over-prepares. Yet as he sat with the media on Wednesday, 24 hours before his first tee time, he still hadn't been on the Baltusrol course.

"I haven't seen the course," Day said. "I don't know what it looks like."

Day did spend time at the dinner with Baltusrol pro Doug Steffen. Over a half-hour, the two went over virtually every hole. Day planned to play a solid 18 Wednesday before he tees off at 8:30 a.m. Thursday with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson in a magical threesome.

"With the limited practice and limited prep that I've had this week, I'm not coming into this week expecting a lot," Day said. "I mean, obviously I'm expecting to win, but like I'm not really going, 'All right, you need to go out and force things straightaway.'

"I've got to really try and manage my patience out there, because I have very little patience right now. For some reason, every time I get a little bit under the weather, I've got zero patience."

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Remember a year ago? It was all about the Big Three. Jordan Spieth, McIlroy and Day. They are young. They are immensely talented. With Tiger fading into the sunset, there were visions of Palmer, Nicklaus and player redux. Well, Danny Willett won the Masters. Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open and Henrik Stenson, with an epic victory over Mickelson, took the British. Counting Day, that's four first-time major winners in a row.

"I'd love to make it five in a row," Sergio Garcia said Wednesday.

Johnson, his life back in order, has finished in the top 10 in six of the past seven majors he has played. He always seems to be in contention in the PGA. Before the first ball is struck, he should be considered the favorite. He's the best driver in the world and that should pay dividends at Baltusrol.

"I like the majors," said Johnson, No. 2 in the world rankings, ahead of Spieth and McIlroy. "They're always played on really tough golf courses. When I'm on really tough courses, I feel like I am more focused."

Of course, being the favorite doesn't mean much in golf. Day, who last won at The Players Championship in May, has been 10th, eighth and 22nd in the 2016 majors. McIlroy, who has four major titles but none since 2014, has been 10th, missed the cut and fifth in the 2016 majors. He won at Dubai this year, but hasn't won a 2016 PGA Tour title. Spieth, who won two majors in 2015, has been second, 37th and 30th in 2016 majors.

The pressure is immense at the majors. And it's amazing the narratives that golfers have to endure. If they don't win an event for a while, they're a massive disappointment. If they pop on the scene at a major, like Andrew Johnston has at 27, they suddenly are beloved. If they go too long, without winning a major, like the 36-year-old Garcia, they can become objects of scorn.

Garcia was asked Wednesday if he was heartened by seeing a "really old guy" like Stenson win his first major at age 40.

"You'd better not tell him he's really old, because he'll …" Garcia said, slitting his throat with his finger. "It's nice to see Henrik at 40 winning and the way he did. If you stay healthy — look at Phil. He's 46. When I saw Henrik Monday at my event at Switzerland he said, 'You're 36. You probably have 16 more before you get there.' My goal is to just keep giving myself chances."

Contrast this talk of relative desperation to the Englishman Johnston. He's got a fairly unkempt beard. He is, ah, chubby. His nickname is Beef. Hardly anybody knew him before he won the Spanish Open and by the time he took an eighth at the British, he was a folk hero. There will be fans here wearing ginger beards in his honor. While Day was carefully picking out the Champions' menu, Johnston was sampling three burgers at three different places in Manhattan. He inhaled a big pastrami at Katz's Deli and loved it. He just scored an endorsement deal with Arby's and on Saturday in Manhattan there he was serving roast beef sandwiches to customers.

"Beef, I've met him once," Day said. "He looks like a top bloke. Looks like a guy you want to go down to the pub and have a beer with, even if you don't drink."

Day is correct. Johnston is absolutely endearing. And you know what the cynics will be calling him when he misses three cuts in a row? Fat. And if he doesn't win in a long time? Fat and sloppy. Golf is a cruel game, on and off the course.

"The hardest part is obviously trying to stay consistent for so many years," Day said. "It's very, very difficult. The last guy we had was Tiger Woods. Each week that he played he was in contention.

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"I always have high expectations of myself. I guess that's why when I play a round that I don't play too well, I'm in the back nearly crying myself to sleep. Yeah, I get really, really frustrated when I don't play good golf."

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On the menu this week: major expectations.

And major disappointment.

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