Hard to believe Jason Day will turn just 24 on Nov. 12. He has played in nearly 100 PGA Tour events, which puts him in the odd-sounding category of "young veteran," a product of turning pro as a teenager and developing faster than most. "A lot of people credit that with being around me for the last 12 years," jokes his longtime instructor Colin Swatton, who helped groom his fellow Australian into a top-10 player in the world. This year Day tied for second in the Masters, finished second alone in the U.S. Open, and had six more top-10 finishes through August."Jason is very mature and always has been quite analytical. Tell him something, and he won't react to it right away. He'll go away and think about it, then come back and react."
That think-before-you-act attitude has helped Day become one of the best drivers in the game, Swatton says. Instead of trying to correct his swing after every bad tee shot, Day patiently sticks to his swing keys and eventually straightens things out. His average driving distance is slightly more than 300 yards, and neither coach nor player pays attention to Day's ranking of 171st in driving accuracy (55.1 percent of fairways). When Day does miss a fairway, they say, it's not by much.
"I don't spray it," says Day, who won his first PGA Tour event last year at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Adds Swatton: "Jason hits it so high and straight off the tee with his driver because he has built a swing that's 'neutral.' He has no real compensations."
In other words, Day takes a fairly neutral grip (neither strong nor weak) and swings the club back and down on essentially the same plane, so there's no need to make adjustments during the swing to square the face at impact.
What they do work on, Day says, are the fundamentals: grip, posture, alignment and so on. It's the same stuff he recommends to his pro-am partners.
"My driving has always been pretty solid," he says. "On the course, the only thing I think about is aiming at the target and hitting the ball at that target as straight as possible. And when I'm on the range, we don't tweak things. We just stick to what I've been doing for a long, long time."
Swatton says Day's swing also is a result of his commitment to fitness. The skinny kid he began teaching at age 12 in Queensland, Australia, swings with a great combination of strength and stability.
"Jason's biggest improvement has been to his body," he says. "He's had a golf-specific gym program since he was 14, working on core strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. He continues to improve with the help of his full-time trainers." —Ron Kaspriske