Day overcame long odds, injuries to win first major

By Rex HoggardAugust 17, 2015, 10:00 pm

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – It’s hard to imagine now looking at images of a smiling, athletic young man with the photogenic wife and precocious young son running about that there was a time when this dream could have just as easily been a nightmare.

On Sunday at the PGA Championship, with the azure hues of Lake Michigan as a back drop, Jason Day completed a journey that started with the Australian fittingly perched on the deep end.

“It’s been pretty well documented that Jason could have been on the wrong side of the tracks. It could have easily gone the other way, and he would have been in a totally different spot,” said Colin Swatton, Day’s caddie and longtime swing coach. “He wouldn’t have been standing on the 18th green at Whistling Straits. He’s come a long way to be here today.”

It’s roughly 9,800 miles from Kooralbyn – a small country town, which is Australian for remote, about an hour west of the shimmering beaches of the Gold Coast – to Sheboygan, Wis. But for Day it’s the metaphorical distance he’s traversed that matters most.

The trek began 14 years ago not long after Day’s father, Alvin, died of stomach cancer and the gangly 12 year old decided, as many children do in times of crisis, to act out.

He got in trouble, hung out in the wrong circles and alarmed his mother, Dening, enough that she took a second job, scraped together just enough money and sent Day to the Kooralbyn International School, a sport specific institution where she hoped he’d find a purpose.

Things didn’t go well at first between Day and Swatton, who was Kooralbyn’s golf instructor at the time. Day was angry and obstinate, Swatton was methodical and entrenched to the point he painted lines on the sidewalk at Kooralbyn that were exactly one yard apart to teach students how to correctly pace off yardages.

“We had a little disagreement initially, but from that day forward he dedicated himself to being the best player in the world,” said Swatton, who evolved into something of a surrogate father for Day. “He put more hours in and worked harder than anyone else.”



And like that Day went from obstinate to obsessive. Swatton once told Day to work on a certain chipping drill and went off to work with other students. When he returned hours later Day was still working on the same drill.

It was the type of single-minded focus that left unchecked could wreak havoc, but under proper supervision could be harnessed and honed to produce frighteningly impressive results even from a player who Swatton concedes wasn’t even the best golfer at his academy.

To a point, Day’s climb followed a predictable script, with numerous amateur titles followed by just a single year on the Web.com Tour before he quickly ascended to the Big Leagues.

But things weren’t as easy for Day on the PGA Tour.

He played two full seasons before his first Tour victory and found himself bouncing on and off the disabled list with alarming regularity.

Day was sidelined with a thumb ailment (2014), back issue (2014), ankle injury (2013), wrist problem (2007) and, most concerning of all, a debilitating bout with vertigo that flared up at the U.S. Open.

It became standard fare to start each interview with Day by asking about his health, so much so the normally affable player waved off your scribe last year on the practice range at the Tour Championship.

“Don’t even ask,” he glared before offering a smile, “I’m feeling fine.”

But if he’d become weary of dealing with doctors, it was the increasingly loud drumbeat of his play in major championships that had truly begun to wear on him.

“I guess you can take me off the best players without a major [list] now,” he said on Sunday after winning the PGA Championship.

It was only fitting that Day completed his Grand Slam quest at Whistling Straits, which was the site of his first near miss at a major when he tied for 10th at the 2010 PGA.

There were runner-up showings at the 2011 Masters (which may have hurt the worst considering the inexplicable Australian drought at Augusta National) and U.S. Open.

He finished third at the 2013 Masters, which was won by Adam Scott, and was again runner-up at the U.S. Open later that season.

But the ultimate blow may have been at last month’s Open Championship where he began the final round with a share of the lead, but Day missed a 25 footer for birdie at the 18th hole that would have earned him a spot in the playoff won by Zach Johnson.

“He was disappointed that he didn’t get it done [at St. Andrews], but it was a matter of looking at what he did really, really well at that golf tournament,” Swatton said.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then it’s easy to see how Day used yet another disappointment to fuel what turned out to be a historic week at Whistling Straits.

After making birdie on his final three holes to win by one shot at the RBC Canadian Open, Day led by two strokes starting the final round at the PGA where, paired with the best player in the world (Jordan Spieth), he picked apart the course and the leaderboard like a guy who already had a six-pack of Grand Slam titles on the shelf.

He birdied four of his first seven holes to pull away from the field and put the finishing touches on what turned out to be a three-stroke victory with a towering 4-iron into the par-5 16th hole for what was essentially a walk-off birdie.

“A lot of tears. This one means a lot. We’ve come so close so many times,” Swatton said. “He always wanted to get better and his goal was to be the No. 1 golfer in the world.”

While he's not No. 1 yet, his dream of winning a major has come true, and it all materialized alongside a dusty hill in Kooralbyn not long after Dening Day took a gamble, and a second job, on a young man who could have gone either way.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.

After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.

Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.


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Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.

The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Mickelson misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.