Early success and high expectations can be a terrible recipe for a burgeoning golf career but things turned in the right direction on Sunday for Jason Day as he captured his first PGA Tour title at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Achieving that at age 22 is incredible by most standards, and follows a recent streak of 20-somethings taking down PGA Tour titles (Rory McIlroy -Quail Hollow Championship and Adam Scott – Valero Texas Open), but when you are five years past being heralded as the next great thing in professional golf, it does gives some pause for extra thought.
As the youngest Nationwide Tour winner on record at the age of nineteen Jason Day was expected to join his fellow Aussies on the big tour and instantly start racking up crowns. But alas, the PGA Tour does not yield so easily. It took him 65 tries to get the first win and nobody really appreciates what went in to making that happen than Day himself. It has turned out be me a far more wandering journey than he, or anyone, else, expected.
That included a mind-numbing final hole Sunday where Day (66-65-67-72-270) won an “uglyfest” battle to scrape out a bogey and secure a two-stroke win. Blake Adams, playing alongside, made his own water-strewn tragedy on 18 at the Four Seasons Las Colinas that prevented him from catching Day. It did however; give Adams part of a 3-way tie for second with Brian Gay and Jeff Overton, at 8 under par -272.
No matter the quality of the finish Day got what he came for, a win, and he was very humbled to finally become not only a PGA Tour winner, but the victor of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. “It means the world to me, for this to be my first TOUR event. To be even in the same breath as Mr. Nelson is just amazing and just to have my name on the Champions' Wall for next year, it's a complete honor. I'm so happy that I came through with that win, and I'm happy that my first one was here at the HP Byron Nelson.”
To his credit Day did not shy away from the truth about why he had not lived up to his early billing – the promise by many that he was the “next Tiger Woods.”
He did not lean on the fact that he had some injuries early in his career as an excuse. “No, me being lazy and thinking — you give someone a really good contract deal with, you know, a big company, you have — you know, everyone is telling you you're the best, and it's easy to slack off,” he said with modesty in the media room afterwards. “It's so easy to slack off, and I never grew up with anything. I was very poor growing up, and to have a couple of dollars under my belt kinda eased the tension, and with that I didn't work hard. I've been working very hard this year and last year, and it's starting to pay off, which is nice.”
That’s a great lesson for another golfer who actually garnered more attention this week than all the pros, 16 year-old Jordan Spieth. Not only did the youngster tee it up – he truly competed for the title, finishing in a creditable tie for 16th place tie.
Asked to comment of what advice he would have for the young man, based on his own wild ride, Jason Day had this to say. “The advice I would give him is keep at it, keep learning, keep playing a lot of tournaments and try and win as many as you can and make it a habit, make it a habit and keep pushing through, no matter what happens. As long as you push through those hard experiences and work hard, you'll come out on top. It will all work itself out.”
The PGA Tour is a tough racket, and true greatness is really only measured one way – with wins, not simply by the stroke of a friendly pen, happy to gloss and promote for the sake of monetary gain.
Jason Day finally has his first win and in time, so too Jordan Spieth might as well.
But they don’t hand those trophies and million dollar checks out simply because they like you – soggy bogeys or otherwise – for four days you need to be better than everyone else.
Sunday, Jason Day did just that, and all those expectations are finally starting to look a little more creditable.
Of course he knows now, if he wants to have the feeling he enjoyed Sunday again – he’ll have to work hard because there is a whole slew of Jordan Spieths, or the next “Jason Day,” out there that only too happy to steal the spotlight.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)