Tiger's influence: Day a future world No. 1?

By Doug FergusonNovember 9, 2011, 7:15 pm

SYDNEY – Jason Day returns home as the highest-ranked Australian in golf, and it’s a wonder anyone recognizes him.

They know all about his prodigious talent, winning on the Nationwide Tour at age 19. They probably remember his bold comments about Tiger Woods at the end of 2007, when Day first earned his PGA Tour card.

“I’m sure I can take him down,” he said.

Most of them were watching on TV when he was runner-up at the Masters and the U.S. Open.

They just haven’t seen him.

It has been nearly five years since Day last played a tournament in Australia. That was part of his Nationwide Tour campaign that brought him to the PGA Tour, and since then he has worked on travel papers, dealt with sinus and other injuries, married an American girl and tried to settle into homes in Texas and more recently in Ohio.

He will be hard to miss Thursday in the Australian Open. Not only is Day at No. 7 in the world ranking, he will be spending the opening two rounds at The Lakes with Woods and Robert Allenby.

“It is good to be back,” Day said. “It’s amazing how things have changed over the years I’ve been away. The change is for the good. Everything is new. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Despite not winning this year, there is a confidence about the way he plays that leads many to think it won’t be long before Day is challenging for No. 1 in the world. At a time when golf seemingly is owned by youth, his name often gets mentioned in the same sentence as U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Day, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Saturday, figures to be part of the action when he tees off Thursday afternoon at The Lakes, a course that allows for players to go after a few short par 4s, and especially the reachable par 5s over the water.

“Does he have the talent to be world No. 1? Absolutely, absolutely he does,” Woods said. “He hits the ball plenty long, a wonderful putter. He has the right attitude for it. It’s just that to get to world No. 1, it takes time. You’ve got to win golf tournaments and you’ve got to be consistent, week in and week out. Just give him time and I’m sure he’ll get there.”

Day thought it might happen much sooner.

Coming off his Nationwide Tour success in 2007, he gave an interview to the Australian media in which he spoke of Woods as his measuring stick. If he won two tournaments his first year on Tour, then that’s what Day wanted to do.

But it hasn’t come as easily. He didn’t win until his 59th start as a PGA Tour member, at the Byron Nelson Championship last year, as he coped with high hopes and injuries.

“I stopped practicing and thought it was going to come easy,” Day said. “Obviously, it didn’t. It’s very stiff competition on the PGA Tour. I had to get back to working on everything, not just my golf swing. I finally realized that when you get to a level like this, it’s not about making huge changes to your swing. It’s about having the little things right and being mentally prepared for each week.”

He finally gets to play on a big stage with Woods at a time when their careers are going in opposite directions.

This marks the two-year anniversary of the last time Woods won any tournament in the world, the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath down in Melbourne. He has fallen to No. 58 in the world, the lowest since he was a 20-year-old rookie in 1996 trying to get his card.

Day had a pair of top 10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs, pushing him into the top 10.

Like so many young players, Woods was an influence on his game.

“I read a book about Tiger and that’s why I woke up every morning at 5:30 and went out and practiced,” Day said. “I got up to 32 1/2 hours a week of practice because of that guy. He has influenced my life a lot. I’ve always wanted to play against him. It’s going to be fun when we have that chance to play against each other. It is going to be very friendly, but obviously we want to beat each other.”

There will be other players to beat at The Lakes.

This is the best field this proud championship has had in years. The Australian Open is the fourth-oldest national championship behind Britain and the United States, and behind Canada based on the calendar. It’s past champions include Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Greg Norman.

Woods is among 13 players at the Australian Open - along with captains Norman and Fred Couples - who will be in the Presidents Cup next week at Royal Melbourne.

Woods hasn’t been the same since the Australian Masters two years ago. He was exposed for serial adultery, missed five months trying to get his life in order, got divorced, changed swing instructors and has spent the better part of this year coping with leg injuries that caused him to miss most of the summer.

“I haven’t played a lot of tournaments this year,” Woods said.

He embarks on a stretch of three events in four weeks, concluding with his Chevron World Challenge the first week in December, before taking an offseason break for about six weeks.

This could take time, though his peers that once expected nothing but the best have not given up on him.

“You can lose the form, but you never lose that talent,” Adam Scott said. “Once he gets back into those positions with his game, he’ll find it not too hard to have that edge again. You can’t write the guy off. Every time we have, he has proved us wrong in the past.”

Getty Images

Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."