It’s Jason Day’s day, finally, as he wins PGA for first major title
For a few moments late Sunday afternoon, everything stopped. All eyes were fixed on Jason Day, who sometimes closes his while visualizing his tee shot.
“Closing his eyes helps him to create the image in his head a little stronger,” said Colin Swatton, who serves as Day’s caddie, coach and father figure.
Day paused to take several deep breaths on the 72nd tee at the PGA Championship. Then he launched a 308-yard drive to the fairway. His life would never be the same.
By closing out a phenomenal five-under-par 67 round at Whistling Straits, Day not only broke through for his first major, he set the all-time major championship scoring record, at 20 under.
“I did not know that,” Day said shortly after celebrating on the 18th green with wife Ellie and son Dash. “That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment and it just goes to show the work I’ve put in is paying off.”
Day could have folded Sunday because of the weight of expectations that accompany six top-five finishes in majors since 2011. Playing partner and closer extraordinaire Jordan Spieth would not relent.
But after Day stroked a near-perfect lag putt on No. 17, and the ball rolled from 61 feet to tap-in range, Spieth gave a thumbs-up and said: “Nice putt.”
Spieth called Day’s performance “fantastic. That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play. 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 see the handsome Day and to hear his elegant Australian accent, you’d never know he was a troubled, at-risk youth, a self-described “punk.”
After his father died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12, his mother borrowed money to send him to a boarding school and golf academy seven hours from home. The coach there was none other than Swatton, still his No. 1 supporter.
“He could have easily gone the other way, and he would have been in a totally different spot,” Swatton said. “He wouldn’t be standing on the 18th green at Whistling Straits.
“He was a good kid and a good player, but not the best in the academy. He just outworked everybody.”
After Day tapped in at 18 Sunday, Swatton said he told the new PGA champion: “I love you.”
Said Day: “To have Colin walk up the 18th hole with me was a special, special thing.”
Day, 27, endured headache-inducing vertigo during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay but played on because he was so hungry to win a major. Leaving a putt short on the final green at the British Open, one stroke out of a playoff, left him “shattered,” according to a friend.
But he channeled those experiences here into a spectacular 68-67-66-67 performance that was three better than Spieth’s 17-under total.
Day cried after his victory, a fitting end to a championship of great emotion.
“He just seemed more pumped about every single thing,” Ellie said. “Every putt he made, he was so intense. I kept saying: He looks like an animal with the fist-pumping.”
Day birdied all four par-five holes Sunday and saved himself on the 152-yard 12th hole. After missing right, he faced a bunker shot to a green elevated five feet. With Spieth’s ball within 13 feet of the cup, there was the threat of a two-shot swing.
Instead Day got up-and-down, and Spieth missed.
“I provided some opportunities for pressure,” Spieth said, “and he just shut the door.”
In the scoring hut after the round, Spieth told Day: “There’s nothing [else] I could do.”
“It’s a good feeling when someone like Jordan, who is playing phenomenal golf, says that,” Day said. “It means he left everything out there on the golf course and my play this week was, well, better than everyone else’s. That feels good to me because I was the last man standing.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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