Jason’s Big Day

Jason Day drove his way to the PGA Championship, his first major victory.
Day drove his way to the PGA Championship, his first major victory.

Did you see Jason Day’s dominating performance over the weekend? Day won the 97th PGA Championship in record-setting fashion by bombing his way across Whistling Straits. But the man was due. Day had nine Top 10s in his 20 major championship appearances coming in, could have won this year’s U.S. Open if not for debilitating vertigo, and narrowly missed-out on the three-man playoff at the Open Championship.

On another note, I correctly predicted three of the four major champions this year and picked Spieth to win the Open Championship. It wasn’t that tough to see into the future. Spieth entered the Masters on fire and practically beat himself to miss the Open playoff. Day had been knocking on the major championship door for some time now.

For me, it’s been a bittersweet major championship season. In the last few years, close friend Ken Bank and I started betting on the majors. Usually there was just a cup of Starbucks coffee or a Frost gelato on the line for the guy who could correctly pick the winner (or the higher finisher), but it certainly made things more interesting. Ken passed away suddenly and unexpectedly this spring. It would have been a fun summer of wagering, my friend.

Day Wins PGA Championship in Record-Shattering Breakthrough
By Karen Crouse
New York Times

HAVEN, Wis. — After a 314-yard drive on the par-5 16th hole at Whistling Straits, Jason Day had a decision to make. Ahead by three strokes in his bid to win his first major championship, Day could lay up with his next shot, which was the smart but conservative move, or go for the green as if he had nothing to lose.

Day did not deliberate for long. In the previous two majors, he had held at least a share of the 54-hole lead and had failed to win. Six times since 2013, he had posted top-10 finishes at golf’s four biggest annual events.

He was going to win the 97th PGA Championship or go down swinging from his heels. Using his 4-iron, Day hit a towering draw that landed on the fringe of the green. He made a birdie to get to 20 under par, and that was where he finished, closing with a five-under 67 to beat Jordan Spieth by three strokes.

Branden Grace of South Africa finished third at 15 under, one stroke ahead of Justin Rose of England.

Day's 20-under
Day’s 20-under score beat Tiger Woods’ record for strokes under par in a major.

Day’s 20-under-par score set a major championship record for strokes under par, beating by one the mark set at the 2000 British Open by Tiger Woods, whose success inspired Day to pursue golf as a career. As a teenager in his native Australia, Day read a biography about Woods that fanned the flames of his desire.

“It had results from age 13 to when he turned professional, and the scores were just amazing,” Day said in an interview last year. “It was like, ‘Why am I not shooting these scores?’ That book inspired me to practice and really work on my game.”

To alter the major championship record book at Woods’s expense, Day said, “is fantastic — it’s an amazing feeling.”

Woods, a 14-time major winner, missed the cut here, but he cast an ethereal shadow over the final pairing, Day and Spieth. While Day motored full speed ahead toward Woods’s major record, Spieth tried in vain to draft off his wake. After titles at the Masters and the United States Open, Spieth, 22, was trying to become the third man, and the first since Woods in 2000, to win three professional majors in the same year. He carded a 68 to complete his 16 rounds at this year’s major tournaments in 54 under. He set the record spree rolling in April by tying the Masters record of 18 under.

After Sunday’s tournament, Woods wrote on Twitter: “Very happy for Jason. Great dude and well deserved. Hats off to Jordan, incredible season.”

If a clairvoyant had told Spieth he would shoot a 17-under 271 for the week, he would have prepared a victory speech. He called Day’s performance “a clinic to watch.”

“He was sitting there swinging as hard as he could off the tee,” Spieth said, adding: “I mean, power to him. He played like he had won seven or eight majors before.”

Spieth didn’t win the PGA but capped of an amazing summer by overtaking Rory McIlroy for No. 1 in the World Rankings.
Spieth didn’t win the PGA but capped of an amazing summer by overtaking Rory McIlroy for No. 1 in the World Rankings.

All was not lost for Spieth, who supplanted Rory McIlroy at No. 1, ending McIlroy’s 55-week reign.

“It’s by far the best loss I think I’ve ever had,” Spieth said.

He added: “To be No. 1 as a team is fantastic. It certainly was a lifelong goal of mine that was accomplished today.”

McIlroy, who shot a 69 for a nine-under 279 and a 17th-place finish, has spent a total of 93 weeks as the world’s top male golfer. He said after his round, with Spieth still on the course, “If he was to get to No. 1 today, I’d be the first to congratulate him because I know the kind of golf you have to play to get to that spot.”

With the victory, Day moved to third in the rankings, meaning that golf’s top three have an average age of 25.

When Woods was in his mid-20s, he had no one in his peer group to push him. Spieth, McIlroy and Day are but the tip of an iceberg of a globe-spanning generation, inspired by Woods to take up the game, that could end up being golf’s greatest.

It includes the American Rickie Fowler, 26, who in May won the Players Championship, considered the most prestigious nonmajor; Grace, 27, a six-time European Tour winner; Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, 23, whose six top-five showings this season included fifth place at the Masters; and Brooks Koepka, 25, who posted his second consecutive top-10 finish in a major.

Day’s move up the rankings was made possible, he said, by his fall down the leaderboard at the United States Open in June. He played the last three rounds with vertigo and was on the verge of walking off the course a few times. By grinding out a tie for ninth, Day proved to himself that he had the fortitude to break through the ceiling of his comfort zone.

Day realized
Day says he finally broke through the ceiling of his comfort zone and went out and attacked Whistling Straits.

“It was good for me to understand how far I could really push myself and really understand that it’s O.K. to go out there and just keep battling,” Day said. “I felt like it was a real kind of growing moment for me, because every now and then we get to a point in our games where it’s O.K. to just go, ‘O.K., it’s all right; I can just hit it in the middle of the green,’ or ‘I don’t really need to hole this putt.’ It’s taken a long time to get to point where I can actually feel a lot more comfortable in a position where I can just go out and attack.”

The hard-earned calluses that Day developed in his closing rounds at the United States Open and the British Open, where he tied for fourth with Spieth, helped him hold his position Sunday. He settled himself with a birdie on No. 2, the first of four he made on the front nine (against one bogey). He made the turn with a four-stroke lead over Spieth and Rose and a two-shot lead over Grace, who was playing in the pairing directly ahead of him.

A double bogey at No. 10 slowed Grace’s momentum, and Day did not offer his chasers an opening on the back nine, even after a bogey on the 15th.

Afterward, Day became emotional when he talked about how his toughest loss — the death of his father from stomach cancer when Day was 12 — made his golf career possible. After his father’s death, Day began abusing alcohol and getting into fights in school.

His mother, fearful of losing him to the streets, sold their home and borrowed money from relatives to send Day to a boarding school, where he came under the tutelage of Colin Swatton. Fifteen years later, Swatton is Day’s swing coach, caddie, mentor and confidant.

Day is the first Australian to win the PGA Championship since Steve Elkington in 1995.
Day is the first Australian to win the PGA since Steve Elkington in 1995.

“To have him walk up the 18th hole with me was just a special, special thing that I could never forget,” Day said.

For a few years, Day has been considered perhaps the best golfer not to have won a major. It is a label he is relieved to have shed.

“Knowing that I had the 54-hole lead for the last three majors and not being able to finish, it would have been tough for me mentally to really kind of come back from that,” Day said. “Even though I feel like I’m a positive person, I think that kind of in the back of my mind, something would have triggered, and I would have gone, ‘Maybe I can’t really finish it off.’ ”

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