In his excellent book Slaying The Tiger, author Shane Ryan spends a chapter discussing the enigma that was Jason Day. Day had yet to win a major and, really, had few victories to show for his talent and reputation as one of the best players in the game.
“As the young Aussie would be the first to admit, part of it is is growth,” Ryan writes. “Part is learning how to win.”
Because he grew up so poor, Day admitted to Ryan and others that money was his chief motivation in his early professional years. Pressing at the wrong time late in a round could make the difference between a second place finish and slipping out of the top 10 completely.
It’s safe to say those days are long gone like the PGA Champion‘s drives. Day plays to win. He fired a remarkable 62 on Sunday to take The Barclays, the first stage of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, by six strokes over Henrik Stenson. Day is now a ridiculous 39 shots under par over his last tournaments, both wins. He’s won three of his last four events and four times in total this season.
Everything in August has looked easy for Day.
On Saturday, he shot 63. He followed up that performance with a bogey-free 31-31 showing in the final round. He drove the ball with his trademarked, focused violence. He demonstrated precision with his long irons, tossing darts into all the greens. But it was his putting that sent shivers down the spines of the golfing public—amazement for the viewer, fear for his competitors. In a word, it was downright Spiethian.
Speaking of a certain 22-year-old Texan, Day’s victory lap came while his two closest rivals—Spieth, who missed the cut after a dismal first two rounds, and Rory McIlroy, who skipped the first leg of the playoffs ostensibly to let his ankle heal further—were absent from the spotlight.
When you watch the highlight of Jason’s day at the Barlcays, just listen to the announcers. They tell you everything you need to know.
Day, perhaps for the first time in his career, could carry golf on a weekend, while the likes of Bubba Watson, Stenson, and Zach Johnson were relegated to spectators. There’s little prestige in the FedEx Cup. Day, by shooting 15-under in the last two rounds, gave the competition a needed spark. He’s become a household name and a near sure thing.
In any other year, we’d be singing his praises louder than all others’. It just so happens Day’s timing wasn’t very good. Spieth took the first two legs of the Grand Slam and nearly the third. Just a year ago, McIlroy captivated golf by capturing the Open Championship and PGA in spectacular fashion. Day’s exploits in August can’t match those heights.
Now, if he runs away with the FedEx Cup, then maybe the story will carry a different ending. Spieth lost his World No. 1 ranking. Perhaps Day can leapfrog him and Rory by the time autumn rolls around. What could that mean for the 2016 Masters? It’s so easy to get carried away.
Golf is absolutely spoiled.