Thinking BigMay 15, 2016

The scary part about Jason Day's win at the Players? He could be just getting started

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 15:  Jason Day of Australia celebrates winning during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 15, 2016 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 15: Jason Day of Australia celebrates winning during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 15, 2016 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Jordan Spieth described the beating he took from Jason Day this week as getting “shellacked.” Adam Scott called Day’s current run “Tigeresque.” The Aussie is in the midst of one of the best stretches in recent golf history. And it continued on Sunday – even when Day didn’t have his best stuff.

Day yanked short irons, and flubbed pitch shots during an ugly front nine, but the fact that he still made the turn with a three-shot lead showed just how well he had played TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course the first three days. Day showed more of that form on the back nine, closing with a bogey-free 33 to cruise to a four-shot win at the Players.

“I mean, it's been a great 10 months that I've had, but the years prior to this 10 months were the foundation were to set me up to this point,” Day said. “I had to fail a lot to learn a lot about myself and learn a lot about my game to really kind of propel me forward to be in a position like this, and everything that I do today is going to have an effect on what I do in the future as well.”

“I've never been more motivated to be No. 1 in the world. I've never been more motivated to try to extend that lead from one to two,” Day said. “All the hard work that I've put into my game right now has paid off, but I've got to keep working hard to win as much as I can.”

Day has now won seven times in his past 17 starts, a run that started with a victory at the RBC Canadian Open in July. But really, it began the week before, when he came up inches short of a playoff at St. Andrews.

“It just flat-out sucks losing. It really -- it doesn't feel good,” Day said. “That week, something changed. I think I said to myself, you know, I think you're ready to finally do this.”

Day won his first major title at the PGA Championship the following month to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. And once he achieved those goals, he started thinking even higher. On Saturday, Day admitted he recently looked at the criteria for making the Hall of Fame and focused even more on this event since it “could push me over the line some day.”

A year ago, such talk would have been rather presumptive. When Day missed the cut at the 2015 Players, he was a borderline top-10 player in the world with just three PGA Tour titles. Now he’s up to 10 victories, including a major championship and a Players, which now makes Day eligible to be enshrined someday in St. Augustine.

But for now, the numbers are staggering. No one else has more than two wins during the time Day has picked up his last seven titles. He’s just the fourth player to have multiple wire-to-wire (without ties) wins in the same season, and he’s the first to have three such victories in a nine-month span. And with each win, his desire to get better grows.

“I've never been more motivated to be No. 1 in the world. I've never been more motivated to try to extend that lead from one to two,” Day said. “All the hard work that I've put into my game right now has paid off, but I've got to keep working hard to win as much as I can.”

It’s an attitude he’s picked up in part through his friendship with Tiger Woods, who texted him messages of encouragement this week – but has also issued a warning.

“Tiger says he's going to kick my butt when he comes back . . . So if he does come back and he's turned into Tiger Woods again, I've got to kind of watch my behind,” Day said.

Day will next play at the Memorial in three weeks and then at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. More bad news for the rest of his peers? Day’s agent, Bud Martin, is a member at Oakmont, “So I’ve got the inside scoop there.”

After matching the TPC Sawgrass course record on Thursday and breaking Greg Norman’s 36-hole scoring record, Day had the inside track to smashing Norman’s 72-hole mark. That ended with a Saturday 73 when the scoring average climbed to 75.59, but with the win, Day did something his boyhood idol couldn’t: get to double digit tour titles before turning 30. Not that he sounded too impressed.

“I look at that 10 PGA Tour wins, and I say to myself, that's not enough, and it isn't enough for me,” Day said. “It's just 10. I want more than 10.”

When pressed for a number that would please him by the end of his career, Day said, “It would be nice to have over 20.”

Really? That’s it, Jason? At this rate, that shouldn’t take too long.


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