Day's first major victory might be just around the corner
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
“He's knocking on the door every major, it seems,” Adam Scott said. “He's kind of got the major-game look.”
The only thing Jason Day doesn’t have is the major trophy. In his last nine major championships, he has finished second three times and third once.
The “glass half full” approach would suggest that Day’s time will come, perhaps as soon as this week for the 25-year-old. The flip side? At age 43, Phil Mickelson is still looking for his first U.S. Open after six runner-up finishes in the tournament. Close calls don’t always preclude championships.
Day has had two runners-up of his own at the U.S. Open, including one last month at Merion, where he tied for the lead in the final round with a birdie on the 10th hole but bogeyed three of his next eight to finish two shots back of winner Justin Rose.
Day is the only player this year to hold at least a share of the lead on the final nine of both majors.
So what is that major-game look that Scott spoke of?
“It's the ability to execute at a major,” he said simply. “It's just so much more pressure than at a normal tournament for your game to stand up. It seems like Jason's got something figured out. That's something I searched for for a long time.”
Day has been less successful at The Open Championship, though. His best finish is a tie for 30th in 2011.
Last year, he missed the Open because his son, Dash, was born the same week.
It’s difficult to begrudge a man for skipping a golf tournament so he can be home for the arrival of his first child. But by Day’s own admission if there is one regret he’s had in his career it’s that he wishes he worked a little bit harder, including last year.
“It all boils down to how much do you want it?” Day said. “If you really want it and there's nothing else in your life other than wanting to win majors, then you're going to do it. That's just what winners do.
“I feel like I work pretty hard now, but I feel like if I put that extra ball or extra 30 minutes in chipping or putting or whatever it is, I think that may have got me one or two extra (wins) by now.”
Instead, he has just one win in six years on the PGA TOUR, which came three years ago at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Day had three top-10s last year before the birth of his son. He had just one the rest of the year. He admits golf took a back seat to his family in 2012, but he's learned how to properly balance his priorities.
“Sometimes you feel a little bit more comfortable with the situation you are in, and that's the moment you start falling a little bit backwards because you're not practicing as hard and you're not doing the work,” Day continued. “The No. 1 guy that I see in the world, all he wants to do is win and compete and play, and that's why he wins multiple times a year, and he's won 14 majors.
“What I'm trying to say by this is that it does take a little bit, but it totally depends on the person. If you have the will and the dedication that you want to win tournaments and you have goals that you want to achieve, then it's up to you.”
Which brings us to this year.
Day finished in the top 10 in three of his first four starts, which included reaching the semifinals of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. He also finished third in the Masters and came oh-so-close again at the U.S. Open.
Is it odd that Day has had three very good chances to win a major (he finished eight shots back of Rory McIlroy in his runner-up finish at the 2011 U.S. Open) yet in six years has just one victory in a regular TOUR event?
“There's just no set pattern,” suggests Scott, who for all his ability had to wait until he was 32 years old to win his first major. “No one's career is the same. You think you're going to come out and win a few majors when you're 20 years old because you're good enough to get on TOUR. It may happen. Rory did it, but other people didn't.
“Why didn't Sergio (Garcia) win two majors when he was 23? He could have, should have. He had the chance to. It's just impossible to know how it's all going to pan out.”
To Scott’s point, Garcia is still major-less a decade later.At the other end of the spectrum is Tiger Woods, but like most everything else with him, he’s the exception.
“If you look at most golfers, prime years are usually in their 30s,” Woods said. “It takes a while to learn how to win at this level and learn how to do it consistently. You've got to learn what you can and can't do.”
What you can’t do is beat yourself up too much.
“As long as Jason's seeing all the positives, then I have no doubt he's going to win heaps of majors,” Scott said. “It's almost harder to win a regular TOUR event than a major.”
Having done the former, Day seems to have followed Scott’s advice and perhaps the latter really is just around the corner.
“I think the biggest thing for me was just trying to feel comfortable in my own shoes out here,” Day said. “Everyone talks about that comfort level. Across the board from when I was a junior to amateur to professional, it's always taken me a little bit to feel comfortable in myself, in my own shoes.
“I came off a pretty average year last year, and I'm a lot more motivated this year, which has been good, and the results have shown in the first half of the season.”