Day latest player to throw caddie for a loop

By Will GraySeptember 13, 2017, 9:28 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Two years ago, Jason Day showed up to the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club at the height of his powers.

The Aussie was fresh off his breakthrough major victory at the PGA Championship, and he had already bagged a playoff event. By the time the week was over, Day had waxed another elite field and left Chicago with the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career.

Times, they are a changin’.

With the top ranking long gone, Day turned heads and raised eyebrows Wednesday when he announced that he had parted with caddie Col Swatton, becoming just the latest top-tier pro to look for a spark with a fresh – and familiar – face on the bag.

As far as player-caddie relationships go, the bond between Day and Swatton seemed borderline inseparable. Swatton’s role was multi-dimensional; he was part caddie, part coach and part father figure after taking Day under his wing as a youth. One need only reflect on the embrace the two men shared on the final green at Whistling Straits to know how close they have grown.

Indeed, the Aussie confirmed that Swatton will continue to serve as his swing coach despite the split. But when it came to life inside the ropes, he felt the need for change.

“The chemistry between me and Col just slowly (changed) over time,” Day said Wednesday. “It’s more my fault really because he’s out there trying to do the best job he can and, unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out no matter how hard he works.”

Day explained that he made the decision to change course during the bye last week. In any other year it might go down as the biggest player-caddie news of the season, but 2017 has become a year marked by looper transition.

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After all, it was only three months ago that Phil Mickelson took on his brother, Tim, as a caddie after he and Jim “Bones” Mackay mutually agreed to end their 25-year partnership, while last month Rory McIlroy swapped out longtime caddie J.P. Fitzgerald for friend Harry Diamond, who remains on the bag after initially being afforded a two-event trial run.

While McIlroy eschewed the notion that he had “sacked” Fitzgerald, Day was candid about the one-way nature of his decision. According to Day, Swatton was “a little bit shocked and disappointed” upon hearing the news, an understandable reaction given the depth of their partnership.

But the caddie has always been an easily-accessed avenue for change, and Day was certainly in need of a course correction. Only eight months ago, he started the year ranked No. 1 and spoke at the SBS Tournament of Champions of his desire to remain there for the foreseeable future.

“It’s great to see that you finished No. 1 at the end of the year. But I’d like to go a full year, not just go half a year, and get finish at No. 1,” Day said at Kapalua. “Obviously the goals are to win majors and win as much as I can, but win majors and try and stay No. 1 for the whole year.”

Both parts of that equation have eluded the 29-year-old. He has not won anywhere in the world since the 2016 Players Championship, and he returns to Conway Farms ranked No. 9 in the world – his lowest ranking since June 2015.

Day appeared to have a shot to turn his season around at last month’s PGA Championship, but a catastrophic blunder on the final hole of the third round abruptly ended his title hopes.

It was an instance where he tried to play the hero shot, opting against a chip-out and going instead for what he described as a “rope hook” off pine straw with a tree obstructing his follow-through. The shot bounded off a branch, bounced backwards and led to a quadruple bogey.

It was a questionable decision in the heat of the moment, one that seemed even more surprising given the stakes. While Day denied that it had any connection to his decision to split with Swatton, the sequence will now go down in hindsight alongside the mis-club that cost McIlroy during the third round of The Open in his final event with Fitzgerald.

“People are going to blow it out more than it really is,” Day said. “He’s still my coach and there’s nothing between the PGA or anything that comes to mind that anyone thinks.”

While the root cause remains nebulous, the decision left no doubt that Day is ready to turn the page in search of a return to form. He has tapped his former roommate, Luke Reardon, for this week and next should he advance to the Tour Championship. But his long-range caddie plans remain up in the air.

“I’m going to kind of just see how the rest of the year goes with whoever is on the bag, see if I can actually get something going,” Day said. “If that doesn’t work out, if I don’t like the way I work with these guys, then maybe a bag shift for next year.”

Stripped to its core, golf remains a uniquely individual sport. There are no teammates upon which to rely, no opponent whose performance can alter a given outcome. It is a battle waged with the hands and between the ears, largely without outside influence.

Those stakes make the role of the caddie all the more important, serving as the lone outside perspective and sounding board for a player’s decision-making and mental approach. Never has that importance been more evident than this year, as one top player after the next has pinpointed it as a possible agent of change.

Now Day has added his name to the list, another world No. 1 with hopes of finding a spark with a familiar face by his side. The decision wasn’t entirely a shock in the wake of similar moves from Mickelson and McIlroy, but it showed once again that no bond between player and caddie is indispensable – even those whose depths reach far beyond the golf course.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."