Day solidifies status as game's best player

By Rex HoggardAugust 1, 2016, 1:29 am

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – As rain pelted down on boggy Baltusrol, creating rivulets that cascaded off the first tee on Sunday, Jason Day took the high ground, smiling like a man with a secret.

There was no hint of the illness that limited his preparation this week to a single practice round or the stress he spoke of last month to hold his position atop the mathematical world ranking mountain.

He is the defending champion. He is the world No. 1. He is Jason Day.

History awaited.

Day had a chance to do what his idol Tiger Woods never did, win a major from the pack with only Jimmy Walker, perched a shot clear after two soggy and segmented days at the PGA Championship, standing between himself and his second major.

Only Woods, who turned Day’s life around when the then-teenaged Australian read a book about Tiger’s rise, has won back-to-back PGA Championships since the event switched to stroke play.

From the outset things didn’t go Day’s way. He bogeyed the first after missing the fairway wide right and the third after missing wide left to fall a field goal behind.

Without his A-game, however, Day scratched his way back with birdies at Nos. 5 and 9 to make the turn one back, because, well that’s what the world’s best player does. 

“On days like this, you've just got to keep pushing yourself harder than anyone else, mentally more so than physically,” Day said.

By the time he arrived at the 17th hole Day was two shots behind Walker with back-to-back par 5s waiting like a canvas poised for his most recent masterpiece.

A par on No. 17 seemed to derail his title chances, but from the middle of the final fairway he hit the “best” 2-iron of his life from 241 yards, a high cut held against the damp breeze that landed 13 feet from the hole. His eagle putt was followed by a Tiger-esque fist pump as Day gazed back down the fairway to where Walker was waiting. Some would call it a glare, but Day really doesn’t do that.

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Day didn’t win the 98th PGA Championship, his closing 67 coming up one stroke short, but he certainly solidified himself as the game’s most dominant player with a runner-up finish that five days earlier seemed wildly unlikely.

“He’s clearly the best player in the world. He’s been quite outspoken in wanting that. The bits of time I do spend with Jason on or around the course he walks and talks like it, too,” Adam Scott said. “He’s completely in his little world right now is what I feel and that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

He’s won seven times on the PGA Tour in the last 12 months and in his previous seven major starts he’s finished outside the top 10 just once, at last month’s Open where he swooned to a 22nd-place showing.

Along the way he’s dismissed the competitive dogma that had clouded his game, winning his first major last year at the PGA Championship, his first title in Florida at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players in a rout.

But his Garden State performance may be even more impressive because of what it represents, more than what he failed to accomplish.

Although Day was reluctant to give his game a grade this week, the record speaks for itself. He arrived a day later than he normally would after playing last week’s RBC Canadian Open, took a sick day on Tuesday because he was feeling under the weather and saw Baltusrol for the first time Wednesday afternoon after a late-night trip to the emergency room Tuesday when his wife, Ellie, came down with a case of hives.

Throughout it all he remained in contention. He remained relevant.

For all the talk of a Big 4 in golf after Dustin Johnson won last month’s U.S. Open, Day waded through the distractions and doubt and mud to give himself a chance at winning a major with an inspired finish regardless of how the numbers on the leaderboard fell into place.

“For some reason, I just enjoy the moment of trying to step up and hit shots like I did on 18 and being in contention. I couldn't even tell you why I love competing and playing in them,” Day said.

That’s a long way from the guy who at Oakmont talked of the stresses of being world No. 1, of the pressure to prove, either to himself or those outside the fishbowl, he deserves to be atop the global pack.

From the time Day cracked open that book about Woods’ ascent to greatness he’d dreamt of holding the top spot, but when he arrived – first in September 2015 and again this March – there was something inherently at odds with the fame the title brings.

Outgoing and often accommodating to a fault, Day is at heart a homebody with little interest in the trappings of success. But over time he’s learned that it’s not the summit that he covets as much as it is the work it takes to get there.

“He’s said he’s not comfortable with it, but he’s embraced the challenge. He says he doesn’t feel comfortable - he looks pretty comfortable,” Scott said.

Jason Day is not Tiger Woods. Truth is, there may never be another Tiger, not with the margins at the game’s highest level so thin the difference between winning and losing often measured to the right of the decimal point.

But what Day has done, what he did at Baltustrol, was Tiger-like. Winning with your best stuff is always impressive; contending with something less than your best is what truly great players do.

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Snedeker starts slow in effort to snag Masters invite

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."