Self-belief…it’s an intangible that has often made the biggest difference in turning good careers into great ones. In the case of Jason Day, it has been the catalyst that provided turbo-chargers to a dream he has had since the age of 14.
There was no doubting the immense talent of the Aussie. After all, he had a stellar amateur career and won the Junior World Championship in 2004 before turning professional. And there are no question marks about his ability to work hard. The hours he puts in at the range are legendary.
But a couple of things went against Day, who became the third man from Down Under to rise to the top of the world rankings. Following his runaway victory at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, he has joined the likes of Greg Norman and Adam Scott in the illustrious list that features only 19 names since it was established in the week before the Masters in 1986.
His health has always been suspect, and the general perception was that Day wasn’t strong mentally. Since he started playing majors in 2010, he has had nine top-10 finishes, including three second-places, and won only once in his first six years on the PGA Tour (the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship before beating Victor Dubuisson in that unforgettable 2014 WGC-Match Play final).
— Benjamin Everill (@beneverill) September 21, 2015
Day graduated to the PGA Tour in 2008 after a brilliant season on the Web.com Tour (then called the Nationwide Tour), and the achievement looked even better because Day spent nearly three months that season nursing a wrist injury he sustained while practicing boxing.
Thereafter, it has been one physical issue with him after another. He has had to deal with wrist, back, thumb and ankle injuries. And then there was the scary episode of him collapsing on the green during the US Open this year because of positional vertigo.
So, how did Day make the transition in such a short timeframe? Just to give you a perspective, he was 10th in the official golf world rankings that were released on June 7 with 5.7746 average points. Rory McIlroy was the world No1 with 12.8251 average points.
A difference of 7.0505 average points, in the way the world rankings are calculated, almost seems insurmountable. Two things needed to happen for the gap to be bridged – McIlroy needed to play very poorly, and Day needed to play like a dream. And as luck would have it, both things happened at almost the same time.
McIlroy could not sustain his mid-season form and then was sidelined with the ankle injury that took him out of the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. On the other hand, Day went on an overdrive. After finishing just one shot out of the play-off at the Open, he has won four times in his next six PGA Tour starts, including the PGA Championship.
Quite appropriately, the breakthrough moment came during the Open Championship at St Andrews – the Home of Golf. Even though he finished tied fourth despite being the only player to be bogey-free over the last two rounds, Day said something clicked in his mind amid all the disappointment.
It was almost like rediscovering the attitude with which he played golf as an amateur and junior – just going out there with the belief that he was the player the rest of the field needed to beat to win.
As is quite evident, Day has backed up his thoughts with action.
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