At the end, Day overcome by emotions

By Randall MellAugust 17, 2015, 2:24 am

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Jason Day said he didn’t expect tears to come streaming down his face as he set up over his last putt to close out his victory Sunday at the PGA Championship.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, though.

We knew he had to have locked away a sea of emotions coming so close on all those major championship Sundays, in all those failed chances to win his first major. You feel like you’ve got one arm in a green jacket at the Masters, one hand on a U.S. Open trophy and one hand on the claret jug, there’s a lot of heartache in losing.

Day’s wife, Ellie, said she wasn’t surprised by Jason’s tears, but not for the reasons you might think.

“He cries at funny things, like movies,” Ellie said standing on the 18th green in the wake of victory.

She said watching the movie Wall-E with their 3-year-old son, Dash, makes Jason emotional.

“That movie makes Jason choke up,” she said.

Jason and Ellie cried together after she galloped onto the 18th green with Dash after that last putt fell. She knew what hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy meant to her husband. It was, more than anything, Jason’s reward for enduring failure, for learning from it and ultimately overcoming it.

“If I didn't have that failure, I wouldn't be standing here today with the trophy,” Day said. “Some people get there quicker than others. Some people make it look easier than others. I'm just glad that it's finally happened, because it was kind of wearing on me a little bit.”

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His triumph washed away some frustrating memories ...

Day birdied the 17th and 18th holes in the final round of the Masters in 2011 to take a share of the clubhouse lead only to watch Charl Schwartzel close with four consecutive birdies and leave him tied for second. Day had the lead with three holes to go at the Masters in 2013 but bogeyed two of the last three holes to finish second again. He had a share of the 54-hole lead at the U.S. Open this summer only to watch Jordan Spieth win, and he had a share of the 54-hole lead at the Open Championship last month only to see Zach Johnson win.

With the lead going into yet another final round Sunday at Whistling Straits, losing this one could have been more crushing than any of those other losses.

“It would have been very tough for me to come back from a major championship such as this, if I didn't finish it off,” Day said. “Knowing that I had the 54-hole lead, or was tied for the 54-hole lead for the last three majors, and not being able to finish, it would have been tough for me mentally. Even though I feel like I'm a positive person, I think that, in the back of my mind, something would have triggered, and I would have gone, `Maybe I can't really finish it off.’”

With just a 6-inch putt left in the end to lock up his three-shot victory over wunderkind Jordan Spieth, Day’s mind couldn’t help racing. He couldn’t help thinking how long a journey that little putt would actually travel with all the sacrifice that went into it. He couldn’t help thinking about his father, Alvin, an Irish-Australian who died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12. About his mother, Dening, who was born in the Philippines, and how she made sacrifices getting him into a golf academy. About Ellie, Dash, and the couple’s expected second child, due in November. About his caddie, Colin Swatton, who has become like a father to him and is also his swing coach.

“That's why a lot of emotion came out of me,” Day said. “My mom took a second mortgage out on the house, borrowed money from my aunt and uncle, just to get me away from where I was, to go to school, a seven-hour drive.

“I remember growing up. I remember watching my mom cut the lawn with a knife because we couldn't afford to fix the lawn mower. I remember not having a hot water tank, so we used a kettle for hot showers. My mom would come bring three or four kettles in, just to heat them up. And it would take 5-10 minutes for every kettle to heat up.”

Day’s mind raced to how Swatton stepped in as more than a coach and caddie.

“He’s been there for me since I was 12½ years old,” Day said. “He’s taken me from a kid that was getting in fights at home and getting drunk at 12 and not heading in the right direction to a major champion winner.”

Those are the kind of powerful thoughts that came flooding into Day’s head knowing he was going to win Sunday.

“Walking up 18, knowing that I've got the trophy, it was just hard,” Day said. “I was trying to hold back tears, and when I saw the putt go up to half a foot, I just couldn't stop crying. 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, to have a shot at greatness. And that's what we all work towards. It's a good feeling.”

The way Day finally broke through was especially rewarding. With Spieth the favorite, trying to win his third major championship this year, Day sensed how much people were rooting to see history. He gave them history, all right, just not the kind they expected. He closed out with a 5-under-par 67 that got him to 20 under overall. Nobody’s ever gone that low in a major before. He broke the 19-under total Tiger Woods won the British Open with in 2000.

“It was fantastic,” Spieth said. “We play a lot of golf, and we played a lot of major championship rounds together, and that was the best I've ever seen him play.

“He's impressive to watch strike the ball, but it was nothing like today. He took it back, and he wailed on it. It was a stripe show. It was really a clinic to watch.”

Ellie could have said she sensed the victory coming, but it was more than that. She said Jason told her he was going to win coming to Whistling Straits. Over the last three months, especially since losing the British Open last month, she said he’s been different.

“There’s a whole shift in him in the last few months,” Ellie said. “I’ve been saying it forever. He’s worked harder than I’ve ever seen him. In the last couple months especially, I’ve just seen this change in him. I don’t know if it’s his comfort level, or his confidence, but this was just going to happen.”

It was as if Jason knew he was doing everything he could, that he was working as hard as he could on his game with Swatton, and that he was doing all he could in the gym with trainer Cornell Driessen.

“I don’t know what it is, he’s just grown up in a lot of ways,” Ellie said. “In the last couple months, it seems like a switch has just flipped. I think that comes with him putting in all the work. His body has physically changed. The way he eats, the way he exercises. He’s just so committed in every single way.”

That’s where those tears came from, knowing that it wasn’t just his commitment, but the commitment of so many people around him was being rewarded.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”