Great ‘Day’ for golf celebrated at PGA Championship
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to see a side of 27 year old Australian golfer Jason Day I will never forget.
After a round of play at the Zurich Classic, Jason more than took his time to stop and talk with the junior golfers in attendance.
Two champion players from the U.S. Kids Golf Tour were among the crowd, Gavin McDermott (age 6, in the first picture) and his brother Hunter (age 8, the second). Day took time for them, but it was more than that. He wanted to be there, not observing a typical PGA Tour obligation for sponsors or something of the sort.
I am sure Day was thinking back to when he lost his dad as a 12-year old. The man who introduced him to golf was gone, and the teenager left behind started down a wrong path in life through alcohol.
That’s when his widowed mother took out a second mortgage to send Jason to a boarding school that accented athletics. This decision led to a life-defining moment when Day met his coach and mentor, Col Swatton.
Swatton, now Day’s caddy and swing coach, savored his pupil’s first major championship win Sunday at Whistling Straits.
A five-time PGA Tour winner, Day has experienced the heartbreak of coming so close to winning a major previously. This year alone, he has led at three majors. After experiencing vertigo symptoms during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – which left many competitors dizzy for other reasons – he started returning to balance. After a near win in Scotland at The Open, Day won the Canadian Open.
On the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, Day was ready to peak.
“I sensed this week he was more relaxed and calm. At a major sometimes you can get more consumed by everything that’s going on, but this week he didn’t allow that to happen,” said Swatton.
Day was not to be denied his lifelong dream of winning a major championship. He did not let the pressure of the final grouping with two-time major champion Jordan Spieth affect him.
Day started Sunday with birdies on the first, fifth, sixth and seventh holes. He never allowed anyone to get close on his way to a closing 67. Day also set a record final score for majors at 20 under par. Remember, major championship golf dates back 155 years.
“It was probably the hardest round of golf I’ve ever played,” Day said. “I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t know how tough.”
Day made it look easy despite the competition. Spieth continues to impress not only as a world class player, but as a true gentleman in the game.
With the pressure of the final holes mounting, Day lagged a lengthy putt on the 17th hole within inches. Spieth gave Day an encouraging thumbs-up to his playing partner. It was a concession of sorts, but the gesture displayed the class of the new world No. 1 ranked golfer in defeat.
“We play a lot of golf and we’ve played a lot of major championship rounds together and that was the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said Spieth. “He’s impressive to watch strike the ball, but it was nothing like today. He took it back and he wailed on it and it was a stripe show. It was really a clinic to watch.”
“Spieth said to me in the scoring area, ‘Man, there was nothing I could do,'”Day said.
The battle lines are friendly but drawn between the two surging stars.
When approached as a 19 years old at the Web.Com Tour, Day was asked to share his goals in golf.
“The same as when I was 12 years old, to be number one in the world.”
Today, Jason Day finds himself No. 3 in the world behind Spieth and another young superstar, Rory McIlroy. It looks to be golf’s new Big Three. The future of golf looks bright. It’s a new Day indeed.
PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Top 10 Finishers
Jason Day -20
Jordan Spieth -17
Brandon Grace -15
Justin Rose -14
Brooks Koepka -13
Anirban Lahirl -13
George Coetzee -12
Matt Kuchar -12
Dustin Johnson -12
Robert Streb -11
Tony Finau -11
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