Day with his 2015 USPGA Trophy – courtesy of PGA of America
Jason Day perhaps summed it up best himself when he said his victory at today’s Wells Fargo Championship was ‘probably one of his best’.
Now, for a young man who has a USPGA Championship, a World Golf Championship and Players Championship amongst his now 12 PGA Tour titles that was quite a statement.
Clearly events such as the PGA and the Players Championships have far greater meaning in his career to date but what Day was suggesting was that amongst a series of victories where his highly recognised fighting, scrambling qualities have played a key role, this was ‘up there’.
By his own admission this was a day which could well have gone differently for the 30-year old but he found a way to dig in when early in the day he was under the pump with a series of wayward tee shots and missed greens.
Today he hit only 6 of 14 fairways and eight of 18 greens but, as is so often the case in Day’s career to date, the will to win can overcome inadequacies in a game on any particular day or week.
“I had no idea where the ball was going today especially off the tee,” Day told CBS’ Peter Kostis moments after sealing the victory.
“I missed a lot of fairways and a lot of greens but my short game stood the test which was nice.
“I mean this was probably one of my best wins I have ever had because of how hard everything was today. The biggest thing is you are playing mental games with yourself.
“You are thinking and subconsciously sitting there going ‘you are going to fail, you are going to fail’ but I kept on saying ‘forget about those thoughts and keep on pushing and try and give yourself opportunities’.
The self-talk is not something new to Day and has been a feature of his still relatively young career, often finding a way to produce stunning par saves to turn an ordinary round into something significantly better.
Day did exactly that today with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes and an impressive par save at the last, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with his near hole in one at the 17th.
Day is considered one of the strongest players in the modern game, regularly inside the top twenty in driving distance on the PGA Tour but it is the combination of his creative imagination around the greens and the skills and self-belief he possesses to realise that imagination that are perhaps his greatest assets.
I have observed Day for many years, watching him win his two Queensland Amateur Championships in 2004 and 2006, playing with him on one occasion when he was just a 16-year old when representing The Hills College during his school years and then of course from near and afar during his professional career.
His natural golfing brain and creative skills have always impressed this writer and, along with his tremendous tenacity, I believe are amongst his greatest assets.
One of the first events I saw him play as a professional was at the 2011 US Open at Congressional when he further confirmed my earlier impressions and in the nearly seven years since there has been nothing to change those thoughts.
In just his third start in a major in that event, and with nowhere near the experience he has now, Day produced some of the most stunning up and downs during the final round to finish runner-up to Rory McIlroy, albeit eight shots behind the Northern Irishman.
Day following his runner-up finish at Congressional in 2011 where his short game skills were on display
Day has a ‘never give up’ attitude and today, when he could have been forgiven for wondering just where the next tee shot might end up, he found a way to win his 12th PGA Tour title.
Day’s earnings as a PGA Tour player are now nearly US$42 million, a remarkable feat for a player still just 30 years of age. He is the highest placed player on that all-time money list of players 30 years of age or younger.
He is currently second on the 2018 FedEx Cup table, third on this year’s money list and has moved back inside the top ten in the world ranking to 7th after being at his lowest standing in more than four years (14th) prior to this week.
The announcement this week that Day and his wife Ellie are expecting their third child was further reason for celebration for the Ohio based Queenslander and is no doubt further evidence of the good place he is in in his life right now.
Ahead lie this week’s Players Championship, an event he won in 2016, major championships at Shinnecock Hills, Carnoustie and Bellrive and there would be little surprise if by year’s end Day becomes Australia’s second highest winning major champion.
I have always been of the belief that Jason day could potentially become Australia’s greatest ever male player although just how that is quantified is perhaps debatable. Major championships are one criteria and in that regard he trails only Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and David Graham but he is definitely trending in the right direction.
But for injury and illness concerns he might well be there already but given he is not far short of that accolade and still only 30 years of age suggests that he is well on his way to a very special place in the history of Australian golf.
Today was just further evidence of that.