Day's dream of being No. 1 finally comes true

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2015, 12:44 am

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The statement was made on a conference call on Nov. 27, 2007, or a lifetime ago.

Sitting on his mother’s bed, Jason Day told a pool of Australian reporters: “I want to chase Tiger (Woods) and my goal is to become the No. 1 golfer in the world. That’s been my goal since I was a little kid. If I work hard on what I need to, I’m sure I can take him down.”

He was sharing his goals and ambitions, his hopes and dreams. It was an innocuous comment, one that would hardly garner any attention in today’s look-at-me culture. But no one challenged Woods’ throne, especially not some cocky 20-year-old who hadn’t even played on the PGA Tour, and especially not then, when Woods’ dominance was so oppressive that it stunted the careers of many extravagantly talented players.

After hanging up the phone, he remembered thinking, That might not go over so well, and sure enough, the boldfaced quote made every national newspaper. The next day, Day staggered into coach Colin Swatton’s office at The Kooralbyn International School in Queensland.

“What did I say wrong?” he asked. “Everybody wants to be the best golfer in the world. They don’t want to be second or third, do they?”

“I don’t know anyone that wants to aspire to just be OK,” Swatton replied. “It’s OK to have a lofty goal and want to be the best player in the world. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

TV commentators still ripped him. Fans teased him. His fellow Australians scoffed at his suggestion – “I think the No. 2 spot is available right now,” one woofed – and wondered why the kid would provoke the great champion.

“Everyone kind of laughed,” Day says now, “and that’s OK. That’s the dream that I’ve always had.”

No one is laughing now, of course.


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Day’s six-shot victory here at the BMW Championship confirmed what has been made abundantly clear over the past few months. After a late-summer stretch when the top ranking was passed around more often than an offering plate, Day has emerged as the undisputed No. 1, putting the world’s best on notice with a tantalizing display of power, precision, finesse and determination.

“It’s the culmination of 16 years of work and trust and belief,” Swatton said.

Day finished four days at soggy Conway Farms at 22-under 262, six shots clear of rookie Daniel Berger. It was Day's PGA Tour-leading fifth victory this season, and fourth in his last six starts. Don’t submit your Player of the Year ballots just yet.

This, you see, was exactly what Day had in mind for this season. More motivated than ever, he declared after his playoff win at Torrey Pines that he really wanted to “kick butt” this year and challenge for the No. 1 spot.

At the time, he was dismissed – again.

He wasn’t a good enough closer.

He couldn’t make the putts when it mattered.

He was living in Rory’s world.

Injuries to Day’s back, wrist, thumb and ankle – and a few scary bouts with vertigo – had always provided a convenient narrative for his underachievement, but Day suggests there was a missing piece from his repertoire.

Belief.

Long one of the most talented players on Tour, he won only twice in seven years. With so many near misses in majors – nine top-10s in all before the PGA – he developed a tremendous amount of scar tissue for someone in his age-27 season.

A shame, too, because his mind used to be so clear. As an amateur, he walked onto the course and knew that he was the man to beat. Every Tour pro feels that way to some extent, or he won’t be out here long, but Day said he’s spent the past seven years trying to convince himself.

“How do you believe in yourself,” he said, “when you don’t know what to believe in?”

Yet to hear Day, his career breakthrough came not at Whistling Straits, where he broke the 72-hole scoring mark, but at St. Andrews, where he left his birdie bid on the last a few inches short.

For the first time, he said, “I was letting it unfold and not forcing the issue.”

Now, four wins later, the lid has been blown off.

Now, whatever doubts existed have disappeared, lost in a flurry of birdies during his stirring comeback in Canada, his macho performance at the PGA, his flawless weekend at the Barclays and his relentless attack at the BMW, where he dominated in wire-to-wire fashion and never led by fewer than four shots on the weekend.

Now, he needles Woods – who spent a record 683 weeks at No. 1 – and bounces ideas off of him. They discuss little things, like stress control and course management and handling success, but those tidbits empower him.

“I had confidence,” Day said, “but I didn’t have the ‘I’m going to go out there and beat everyone here’ confidence.”

Of course, golf at this sublime level is leased, not owned. That confidence will be tested, maybe even next week at East Lake. Soon he will wonder how it ever came so easily, how he pounded his driver so long and so straight, how he willed all of those putts into the cup.

For now, though, he just wants to enjoy his golf, and the realization of a dream.

This goal to become No. 1 first materialized when he watched Woods’ game-changing victory at the ’97 Masters. A few years later, before heading to the 2004 Junior World Championship, he asked Swatton: “Do you really think I can be the best player in the world?”

“Absolutely,” Swatton replied. “You’ve just got to listen, be patient, work hard, and eventually you’re going to get there.”

After that victory at Torrey Pines, the then-17-year-old devised with Swatton a four-part plan – with technical, tactical, physical and mental “buckets” – to reach the pinnacle of the sport by the age of 22. He’s nearly six years late, but who cares? He’s there now.

Day was asked Sunday night what the younger version of himself would say to all of the detractors back in late 2007.

“I’d love to say I told you so,” he said, “but that wouldn’t be very nice.”

Instead, he hopes that the statement, the backlash and the eventual fulfillment are a reminder that it’s OK to dream big.

“I always had a vision of me standing on top of the earth when I was a kid,” he said, “and knowing that right now there’s no one on this planet that’s better than me, that’s pretty cool. That out of all the golfers that are in the world playing right now, I’m the best. It’s such a good feeling.”

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.


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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.