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Defending champ Day confident at storm-soaked PGA

Severe thunderstorms drenched Baltusrol with heavy rain on Monday, cutting short the first practice session for the 98th PGA Championship and soaking greens that had been fast in afternoon heat.

Sweltering heat greeted players in the early afternoon but the day ended with standing water puddled across many areas of the course after thunder, lightning and downpours.

PGA of America officials halted play at 4:38 p.m. and had spectators seek shelter, several dozen huddling in the massive souvenir tent until a break between storms allowed them a chance to leave.

It was a signal that players could face a lot of extremes in this week’s quest for the Wanamaker Trophy, with forecasts for hot conditions until storms are set to return for the weekend.

World number one Jason Day of Australia will try to defend his first major title, which he won last year at Whistling Straits.

“I feel good about my game,” Day said. “I’m hitting a lot of good shots and that has given me confidence. I should be good to go.”

Day was won seven titles in the past year and flirted with major success, sharing 10th at the Masters and eighth at the US Open.

His mindset is less about repeating as champion, especially on a different course, than it is about achieving new feats.

“I never really look at it as defending,” he said. “I try to win it again. That’s the mentality.”

World number two Dustin Johnson made his major breakthrough last month by winning the US Open at Oakmont. The American also won a WGC event at Firestone and shared ninth at the British Open, enough good finishes to bolster his confidence entering the final major tournament of the year.

“I think the game is in really good shape,” Johnson said. “Do a little practice on the putting in the next few days, but other than that, I’m really confident in the game right now. I feel like everything is going really well.”

Day will play the first two rounds alongside four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, the 2014 PGA Championship winner, and Phil Mickelson, the 46-year-old US left-hander who won the last PGA Championship played at Baltusrol in 2005.

Mickelson battled British Open winner Henrik Stenson into the final holes before settling for second to the Swede at Royal Troon two weeks ago.

Johnson will play Thursday and Friday alongside Stenson and Masters champion Danny Willett of England in the annual threesome of the season’s prior major winners. Each won his first major this year — and none of them wants to see another first-timer take the trophy this week.

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