Monday Scramble: Day completes remarkable journey

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Jason Day breaks through, Jordan Spieth never gives up, Tiger Woods prolongs the inevitable, Brooke Henderson's star is born and more in this week's teary-eyed edition of the Monday Scramble.

Jason Day must have been tired of watching his peers celebrate.

The extravagantly talented Aussie avoided becoming the first player in history to lose three consecutive 54-hole leads in a major, rising to the occasion at the PGA with one of the year's most impressive performances. 

It wasn't just that Day set the major scoring record at 20 under par. It was the way in which he won, wailing away on driver, staring down Jordan Spieth, golf's new No. 1 player, and dusting him by three shots. 

Not everyone's path to major glory is smooth, and for a while Day was considered little more than a tantalizing tease, with just one victory in his first six years on Tour. Heck, even he began to wonder whether he had what it took to reach the game's highest level.

Then he won the Match Play. Then he won at Torrey Pines. Then he won in Canada. And now he has won at Whistling Straits, shedding the label of best player without a major. 

"Some people get there quicker than others. Some people make it look easier than others, and I'm just glad that it's finally happened, because it was kind of wearing on me a little bit," he said. "It doesn't help with the media, hearing about it all the time. But I'm glad to take my name off that list and move forward from here." 


1. There were lots of tears on the 72nd green, and not just because Day lifted his major burden. This was the culmination of a remarkable journey in which he grew from a teenage drunk reeling from the death of his father to one of the game’s bona fide superstars. (More on that here.) 

Much of that rise can be credited to the work of his caddie and swing coach, Colin Swatton, who rescued Day when he was a 12-year-old headed down the wrong path.

“It’s just a lot of hard work that I’ve been putting into this game to dedicate myself to have a shot at glory, have a shot at greatness,” Day said. “That’s what we all work toward. It’s a good feeling.”

2. Day’s seven top-5s in the majors since 2011 are tied for the most over that span. And the player he’s tied with, fellow Aussie Adam Scott, just played his final major with an anchored putter. 

3. Day's putting, meanwhile, is an underappreciated aspect of his game. Since 2011, he's never been worse than 30th on Tour in strokes gained-putting. Last week at the PGA, he was an incredible 60-for-62 from inside 10 feet. 

4. The lowest 72-hole scores in relation to par in major-championship history:

  • Jason Day: 20 under, 2015 PGA
  • Tiger Woods: 19 under, 2000 Open
  • Jordan Spieth: 18 under, 2015 Masters
  • Tiger Woods: 18 under, 2006 PGA
  • Tiger Woods: 18 under, 2006 Open
  • Tiger Woods: 18 under, 2000 PGA (won playoff)
  • Tiger Woods: 18 under, 1997 Masters
  • Nick Faldo: 18 under, 1990 Open

 


5. Random thought: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more appealing Big Three in golf than Jordan, Rory and J-Day.

6. There's a common thread between these three stars: sportsmanship. Last week, Day went out of his way to compliment his fellow playing competitors in a public setting, whether it was Dustin Johnson or Spieth. When it became clear that he would cede his No. 1 ranking to Spieth, McIlroy told us: “I’ll be the first one to congratulate him, because I know the golf you have to play to get to that spot, and it has been impressive this year.” I wrote this Sunday night from Whistling Straits, but it’s worth repeating here: Spieth unabashedly praised Day down the stretch in the final round, raving about an unlikely birdie on 14, giving him a thumbs up for a cozy lag putt on 17 and applauding him on the final green when Day collapsed into his caddie’s arms and his family raced out onto the green to celebrate. 

The game is in a great place, with three eminently likable lads. 



7. Dustin Johnson's final-round 69 at the PGA basically summed up his entire career, with big misses (an opening quad and three bogeys) and loads of promise (six birdies and an eagle). 

8. Johnson may believe that he's "got what it takes" to win multiple majors, but this Grand Slam season has convinced more than a few observers that his time may never come in the game's biggest events. The collapse at Chambers. The weekend retreat at St. Andrews. The baffling stumble at the PGA. At 31, he's only one year younger than Woods when the former world No. 1 captured his last major. In other words, he's no longer a rising talent who is still learning how to win. He's a megastar-in-waiting who is squandering the prime of his athletic career by continuing to fold in the biggest moments.

9. Think DJ had it rough this major season? Consider the case of Justin Rose. He was 14 under par in both the U.S. Open and PGA – and lost by a combined 10 shots! His 34-under-par performance in the majors was the best of any non-winner in the last 30 years, according to the Golf Channel research department.  

10. Speaking of which ... the 2015 major venues served up plenty of low scores. Below is a list of the best cumulative scores, ever, in the majors. Note that four of the top seven players were from this year: 

  • Jordan Spieth (2015): -54
  • Tiger Woods (2000): -53
  • Jason Day (2015): -35
  • Justin Rose (2015): -34
  • Rickie Fowler (2014): -32
  • Dustin Johnson (2015): -29
  • Tiger Woods (2006): -28

Players are getting better, yes, but Augusta, St. Andrews and Whistling Straits all played softer and more forgiving than anticipated. 



11. This should help put Spieth's historic season in perspective: He finished just four shots away from a single-season Grand Slam. In the modern era, only Jack Nicklaus in 1975 (three) has come closer.

12. Just for fun, let's pretend that Spieth's final-round 68 was enough to win the PGA for his third major of the season. The hottest topic in the press tent over the weekend is where that would have placed Spieth's in the pantheon of all-time great major seasons. 

I'd argue that it would have slotted him No. 1, ahead of Tiger Woods' 2000 season.

Spieth's 2015 major campaign would have been better for a few reasons. Start with the fact that he already has the lowest cumulative score to par in the majors, the fewest number of strokes ever and a better "fourth major" finish (T-4 at Open; Woods was fifth at 2000 Masters). 

Anyone who contends that Woods put together the greatest major season in golf history undoubtedly will point first at the most dominant stretch of golf anyone has ever seen – a combined margin of victory of 23 shots, including the 15-stroke romp at the Pebble Beach Open.

Yes, that blows away Spieth – whose spread in his wins was only five shots, a nod to his efficient but not overwhelming game – but keep in mind that Woods swept the season’s final three majors and didn’t have the single-season Slam hanging over his head. His major season began with a fifth-place showing at the Masters, where he finished six behind, and then went on his tear. 

Hey, if nothing else, it would have been a lively debate.  



13. A snapshot of Woods at the majors:

  • 1997-2013: 64 starts, three missed cuts
  • 2014-present: 6 starts, four missed cuts

14. Even a few days later, it still doesn't compute why Woods would choose to tee it up this week at the Wyndham Championship. He hasn't won in two years, and that's the only result that will send him to the FedEx Cup playoffs. He said that his decision is more about "building," but it's unclear to what he is building. If this is his last start of the season – and, let's face it, there's a strong possibility that it is – then Woods isn't expected to play again until Oct. 15, at the Frys.com Open. In other words, he would be building toward a break, nothing more. Curious.



15. Rory McIlroy may have forfeited his No. 1 ranking, but it's hard to view his PGA return as anything but a resounding success. He shot 7 under on the weekend after knocking off the scoring-skills rust. He didn't report any issues with his injured left ankle. And he averaged a very Rory-like 308 yards off the tee. Not bad for a guy who couldn't walk six weeks ago. 

16. Rory performs his best when he has an edge, when he has something to prove. He wants to be No. 1 in the world, but he also realizes that it was inevitable that the red-hot Spieth would take over the top spot sometime in the next few weeks. It should be just the motivation McIlroy needs to try and end his year on a high note. 

17. How long until Brooke Henderson becomes a top-5 player in the world? The 17-year-old Canadian starlet, whose petition last year to waive the LPGA's age requirement was (embarrassingly) denied by commissioner Mike Whan, won the Portland Classic by a whopping eight strokes on Sunday. Even more impressive considering she was a Monday qualifier for the event. She has already cracked the top 20 in the world – ahead of more heralded players like Michelle Wie, Karrie Webb and Morgan Pressel – in what is just her first year as a pro. At this time last year, she was coming off a loss in the U.S. Women's Amateur finals. 

The carnival act that is John Daly's PGA Tour career made a stop in Sheboygan, Wis., last week. Still allowed to play because of his win at Crooked Stick 24 years ago, Daly fired three shots into Lake Michigan and then his club during another pathetic outburst. 

The worst part? He attempted to explain his petulance by telling reporters, “I’ve always said, ‘You throw a club, it shows you care.’”

Not really. It shows that he has no etiquette or respect for the game.  

A look at this week's award winners ... 


Goodbye … Hello?: Steve Stricker. The 48-year-old semi-retired player may have played his last major at the PGA, but it'd rate as a surprise if this was his last time at Whistling Straits. The Wisconsin native would appear to be a heavy favorite to land the Ryder Cup captaincy when the event heads to the Straits in 2020. Unless, of course, Davis Love III’s bunch gets crushed at Hazeltine and the task force has to blow up the system again. 

What Were You Thinking?: Pete Dye. Building the 18th hole into the setting sun? As if the 500-yard par-4 finisher over a ravine wasn't tough enough in a major.

Rules Official's Best Friend (or not): Bubba Watson. Trying to get relief from an ant hill, Watson snapped at an official and said, "So if someone was allergic to ants, you couldn't care less?" 

The Young King: Jordan Spieth. At 22 years and 21 days, he is the second-youngest world No. 1 of all time. Tiger was 21 years, 5 months, 23 days when he reached the top spot for the first time.  

Best GIF of the Week: Phil Mickelson, riding the Straits Slip 'N Slide: