Is Day ready for a major breakthrough?

By John FeinsteinJune 11, 2014, 9:07 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – If you walk the grounds at Pinehurst this week you will be surrounded by avid golf fans, true devotees of the game.

And yet if you ask this question, chances are you will not get a correct answer: Who finished second to Justin Rose in last year’s U.S. Open at Merion?

That’s easy, right? Phil Mickelson finished second and declared it the biggest heartbreak of his career.

Mickelson did finish second at Merion – his sixth second-place finish in a U.S. Open. But he didn’t finish second alone. He tied for second with … wait for it … Jason Day.

Day has finished second twice in the Open - 2011 in the Rory McIlroy runaway at Congressional and last year at Merion when, like Mickelson, he was in contention until the last few holes. In his first Masters, in 2011, he tied for second - two shots behind Charl Schwartzel. Last year he finished third at Augusta, two shots shy of the Adam Scott-Angel Cabrera playoff.

It is easy to forget that Day is still only 26 because he’s been on so many major leaderboards, even though his first one wasn’t until the 2010 PGA, where he tied for 10th.  He hasn’t made it look easy, but he has made it clear he can play very good golf when the heat is on. Just not quite good enough - yet - to get where he wants to go.

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“I’ve been close in a few majors now,” he said Tuesday. “So close you can almost taste it. It’s disappointing and encouraging at the same time. It really is all how you look at things. I can stew on it and say I kind of have blown a major or two or I had a real opportunity to win and I just didn’t quite get there.

“But I look at it as experience.  I just have to keep giving myself the opportunities. If I can put myself there more and more and more, it’s bound to happen.”

If it happens this week at Pinehurst, you can bet much will be made of the fact that Day’s father, Alvin, who gave him his first golf club when he was 3, passed away, a cancer victim, when Jason was 12. Now that Jason is a father himself - his son Dash will be 2 in July - the Father’s Day theme that frequently dominates an Open Sunday would be very much in play - just as it was a year ago when Rose blew a kiss skyward to honor his dad after his final putt on 18.

Day has thought about what it might mean to him to be in that position. “I know, watching Rosie last year, his dad passed away and just for him to talk about what the impact his father had on his life, to be able to recognize that and say it in his speeches, you know it’s pretty special,” Day said. “Hopefully, one day Dash will be able to see me playing and winning tournaments, not only the U.S. Open, but other tournaments as well. And we can look back on it together as father and son and really enjoy it and have those memories that go a long way. Because I never really got to experience that with my father.”

Day has never been one to dwell on setbacks - the biggest one being his dad’s death. This year he’s dealt with injuries - one to his thumb and one to his knee - that set him back after he won the Accenture Match Play in February. He appeared poised to make a serious run at being ranked No. 1 after that victory jumped him to No. 4.

Instead, he had to take time off, tried to play through pain at the Masters - finishing tied for 20th - and then had to take another few weeks off to try to allow the thumb and knee to heal.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “I’ve been icing my thumb and taking anti-inflammatories every day just to make sure that it doesn’t pop up again. If it’s going to pop up, it’s going to pop up.”

Day arrived in Pinehurst on Friday so he could play his way into the tournament without pushing his body too hard. He played nine holes Tuesday and took Wednesday off to rest for his early tee time Thursday. He’s played only once - the Memorial - since the Masters, so this might not be his week to win a major - yet.

Either way, Day will handle what comes with grace because he’s a remarkably mature young man. When he was asked Tuesday about losing his father at an early age he made the point that, as sad as it was, he isn’t the only person to deal with that sort of loss.

Day was 19 when he made it through the first two stages of Q-School and played what was then the Nationwide Tour in 2007. He and Erik Compton, who has had two heart transplants, became friends during that year.

 “Spending time with Erik taught me a lot about life and about adversity,” Day said. “We golfers tend to get pissy if we get rained on for 15 minutes. Or if the wind changes on us during a round. I saw what Erik had to go through every day just to get to the first tee - the pills, the headaches he gets all the time - and it made me realize that I’ve suffered some loss but I’ve got a pretty easy life right now. In a sense, I was lucky to find that out even before I got to the Tour.”

He became the youngest player ever to win on that tour in July 2007 and was on the PGA Tour in 2008, shortly after turning 20. He won for the first time in 2010 at the Byron Nelson Classic and has steadily improved since. His ability to deal with what comes – whether near-misses in majors or injuries at inopportune times - makes it easy to forget that he’s still just a kid when it comes to golf.

On Tuesday, someone pointed out that the two Australians who have been ranked No. 1 - Greg Norman and current No. 1 Adam Scott - were both in their 30s when they reached that ranking. Day won’t be 30 until July 2017.

“Yeah, I’d like to do that (be No. 1 before 30),” he said with a grin. “It would be awesome just to be No. 1 in general but I really want to achieve that No. 1 spot before I’m 30. And then get into my real peak of my golfing career and see what I’ve got.”

Based on what he’s shown, Day appears to have plenty. And plenty more still to come.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.