PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jason Day vividly recalls the first time he had a chance to win a professional tournament.
He was 19 years old and in contention at the 2007 Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship outside San Francisco on what was then called the Nationwide Tour.
Long story short, Day broke up with his girlfriend on the eve of the final round, made double bogey on the first hole and ultimately shot 80. He tied for 26th place.
“I hooked my ball of the first tee, hit a little girl,” Day said Tuesday at The Players Championship. “I was kind of shaken up after that. I learned a good lesson obviously how to handle pressure that day.
“Also not to break up with your girlfriend the night before. That definitely doesn’t help.”
Day won his first event on that tour three months later.
That week nine years ago all seems so distant now that Day is the No. 1 ranked player in the world and has won six PGA Tour events since he was last at TPC Sawgrass. But that week, perhaps as much as any other in his professional career, taught him invaluable lessons that he still holds close.
“You have to have a very happy life to also play good golf, to stay focused and then also,” he said, “I think playing that day and not playing that great taught me that I can’t take things for granted as much as I was.”
Now married with two young children, Day clearly has struck a balance as he looks to win his first Players Championship. It won’t be an easy task though. In five appearances at TPC Sawgrass he has three missed cuts and two top-20 finishes.
“I think about family first and then golf, and that’s all I think about in life,” Day said. “I'm very motivated to try and win each and every week that I tee it up.”