Intriguing personality, this Aussie Jason Day.
Warm smile, youthful exuberance, immense golf talent. But it’s been noticed by many reporters Day takes that timeless route when it comes to putting a name to a face.
He calls everyone “mate”. However, that could be interpreted by a psychologist, who knows? Some would probably dismiss it simply as an inability to remember names, which would mean the 27-year-old is in good company. Lot of people have that issue.
The jokers in the golf media — and they are plentiful — might suggest Day can’t remember the secret to winning a major championship, either, but that would need a disclaimer. Folks would tell you that you can’t forget what you’ve never learned and therein we start to get our arms around what is at the heart of this Aussie as he settles into the spotlight week in and week out on the PGA Tour.
Day has now competed in 20 major championships and, if you’re a bottom-liner, then you probably only look at the big, fat zero in the win column and dismiss him.
But, if you’re more likely to sit and observe, to study and absorb, then you are taken by the number nine, as in nearly 50% of his major championship starts have resulted in a top 10 finish. Dig deeper and digest this: Since 2011, only Adam Scott (with seven) had more top fie finishes than Day (six) in the majors.
In other words, that loud noise you hear every time you approach the start of a major championship is Day knocking on the door.
Some would suggest it’s not a knock, that it’s a furious kick. At St Andrews several weeks ago, the door almost fell in, though Day’s putt for birdie and a possible spot in a playoff came up agonizingly shy, by inches.
Several weeks before that, the Aussie was tied for the lead through 54 holes, but closed with 74 and settled for a share of ninth.
Translated, he remains on the threshold to a major victory, and while sceptics may insist that the jury is still out on Day, from this seat in the media centre at the 97th PGA Championship, there is no doubt the Aussie will break through — and soon.
And what’s more, here’s a belief that unlike names, Day won’t be so forgetful. Here’s guessing he’ll absorb the blueprint for winning majors and build a small pile of them.
He’s sure he will, too.
“I want to be a dominant player and I want to be able to, in big tournaments like this, be able to close and win and not win one major, but more majors. Two. Three. Four. I want to win as many as I can.
“I don’t want to be that one-hit wonder.”
I think he won’t, and part of that assessment is built around Day’s debut in the WGC-Match Play Championship, back in 2011 when he came up against Paul Casey in a third-round match. In the lead, Day went silent when Casey walked toward his 1-foot putt. “I made him putt it,” Day said.
Casey, 11 years older, stared. When Day remained quiet, Casey tapped in the putt. Then he stared some more.
But if he thought he was going to rattle Day, he was sadly mistaken. Younger and more inexperienced, yes, but Day possesses a bottomless supply of confidence and when he stormed to a 4 and 2 win he didn’t feel the need to apologise.
“I could sense he was starting at me because it was like he was burning a laser through me from the side,” Day said. “Then he ended up losing the next two holes and I won (4 and 2).”
There was no doubt that winter day four years ago in the Arizona desert, nor is there any doubt sitting here on the shores of Lake Michigan — at a course, Whistling Straits that is big on the wow factor but short on character — that Day straddles that line. He’s abundantly confident, supremely able, borderline cocky, but never does he cross into the shaded area of arrogance.
Most of all, Day has made the transition needed of major champions. Talent can get you so far, but he’s discovered what will take you to the higher levels. One week after the heartache at the Old Course, Day on the 72nd hole of the RBC Canadian Open slam-dunked a putt of more than 20 feet to win.
“It’s just amazing how the more and more I stay out here, the more it’s all about the head, rather than the whole game itself,” Day said.
And if his head tells him he’s ready to win one of these things, he will listen.
So should we.
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