97th PGA Championship, Wisconsin
Less than a month ago, 28-year old Australian Jason Day was once again in contention in the last round of a major golf tournament. And once again, he watched as a single shot became the difference between eventual Champion Zach Johnson on the back nine.
To put things into context, this loss wasn’t Day’s most crushing disappointment in life. In fact, it wasn’t even in his top 5 worst moments.
Not too long ago, as a teenager, Jason Day struggled to deal with the death of his father. He was inches away from being institutionalized, developed an alcohol problem and was on a destructive path. But back then, his mother, sisters and his caddie stuck by him. You’d think golf is a sport that isn’t meant for hotheads to find direction in life, but with Day, nothing was ever predictable or conventional. Poverty was also an ugly companion for most of Day’s childhood, and the challenges he had seen his mother endure were possibly far greater than the ones he had to battle on the course, fighting for his first major title. That, in a way, made Day the steely-eyed, determined champion that he now is.
On Sunday, at the fourth (unofficial) Major of the year – the PGA Championship – Day led again going into the final round. This time, it was the best golfer in the world chasing him, just 3 shots behind. Jordan Spieth entered the final round expecting Day to make mistakes. He expected to at least get into a playoff position before making a move for his 3rd Major of the year. But Day finished the tournament at 20 Under Par. It was not only a tournament record, it was three ahead of Spieth in the end. Day didn’t let go, he just drove and drove the ball hard through the day; there wasn’t more Spieth could do.
Spieth is now the number 1 ranked golfer in the world. For all four Majors, he has been in contention right till the final moments. This is unprecedented in today’s age, but Spieth has proven that there’s nobody better – young or old – at the moment. But the way Day literally stayed ahead of him, to give everybody a lesson in being a frontrunner, one would find it difficult to look past the current young trifecta in Golf – Mcllroy, Spieth and, now, Day.
It was an emotional moment for him. Spieth admitted that he was outplayed, and for the second month in a row, has tasted failure right at the heels of success. This will make Spieth hungrier, but it will also make Day far more determined. He has tasted blood, and Rory McIlroy – the Irishman who could do no wrong, till his injury earlier this year – finally has consistent company. He won’t be afraid, and it’s too early for any of these talented kids to go Woods on us.
To paraphrase Ravi Shastri’s overused phrase, Golf is the real winner here.