Finally healthy, Day's ready for another run at No. 1

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 9, 2015, 3:14 am

SAN DIEGO – Last year at this time, Jason Day truly believed he was on the verge of becoming the No. 1 player in the world.

Then he hyperextended his thumb.

Then he suffered a bulging disc in his back.

And then he thought, Well, here we go again.

Dreams of that top spot faded. Again. He watched Rory McIlroy script one of the best seasons in recent memory and open up a huge lead in the rankings.

“It was bad timing,” Day said Sunday, shaking his head. “Really bad timing.”

A few months ago, he sat down with his team (caddie/swing coach Colin Swatton, mental coach, trainer and agent) and said, essentially: Now what?

Day couldn’t go through another injury-plagued season, not after a depressing summer in which he seriously contemplated what he was going to do, and whether he was going to be able to play to the level he was capable.

Farmers Insurance Open: Articles, videos and photos

That elite level was on display again Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open, where Day erased a three-shot deficit with a 2-under 70 and defeated J.B. Holmes on the second playoff hole.

“I needed this win,” he said. “I really wanted to win.”

Once again No. 4 in the world, Day says he’s never been more motivated than he was this offseason – “I really wanted to kick butt” – and it’s easy to see why.

He was tired of watching Rory dominate.

He was tired of feeling like an underachiever.

He was tired of battling injuries.

For the first time in his career, he didn’t jot down goals for this season. With only two Tour titles in seven years, Day didn’t say that he wanted to have a bunch of top 10s, or to win multiple times, or to capture a major title. No, he simply said this: He wanted to give 100 percent – in every tournament, every round, every day.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “I don’t want to go through life thinking about what if I tried a little harder. If I can put in 100 percent every day, really give it a good shot, then at the end of my career I know that it’s been successful, because that’s as much as I could do.”

Last year felt like Day’s breakthrough. He authored a stirring performance at the WGC-Match Play, a victory that he thought would soon propel him to No. 1. But his hyperextended left thumb only got worse. He withdrew from Doral and didn’t play again until the Masters, when he tied for 20th despite not hitting a practice ball for two months leading into the event.

That lingering injury affected him for three months, and it even forced him to weaken his left-hand grip to alleviate some of the pressure. There was the bout with vertigo at Firestone. And eventually, that ailment gave way to another – a bulging disc in his lower back that sidelined him at the BMW Championship. After gutting out a T-4 at the Tour Championship, Day shut it down for the better part of three months, scrapping his obligations in his home country of Australia so that he could focus on rehabbing and building up strength in his thumb and back.

The process was all too familiar. For years Day has been labeled as one of the Tour’s immensely talented but injury-plagued stars. Every time he seemed close to surging forward, he broke down and retreated. An injury to his ankle. His wrist. His thumb. His back.

What followed was the usual finger-pointing, the hushed discussions that Day swung too hard, practiced too much or was just too brittle for a full Tour slate.

“We said one year where you’re fully healthy, it’s going to be a big year,” Swatton said. “This is the start.”

So don’t underestimate the importance of winning this event, in these U.S. Open-like conditions at Torrey Pines.

“If you have a big year you have to win early,” Swatton said. “This will calm him down, but it’ll also give him the sense to say all the hard work is worth it, and the hard work will pay off. From here it’ll only help him stay focused, stay hungry and definitely want to chase Rory down.”

In his last seven OWGR events, Day has a win and six finishes of seventh or better, with a scoring average over that span of 68.36.

On the world’s biggest stage there is a void waiting to be filled, with a diminished Tiger Woods, a dominant McIlroy and a host of occasional winners in pursuit.

Firmly committed, Day is now fully prepared to challenge for No. 1.

As usual, he just hopes he can stay healthy.

“It’s obviously going to be tough to try and catch him,” he said, “but that’s why we are here. We love to compete, and we love to try and see what we’ve got.”

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Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

“I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

“I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

“A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

“My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

“I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

“As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.