Category archive: Jason Day

Jason DayAP Photo/Mike GrollJason Day took the scenic route to a par on the second hole in Round 3 at the PGA Championship.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jason Day went to great lengths -- and in bare feet -- to stay in contention Saturday.

Playing in the same group as 36-hole leader Rory McIlroy, 26-year-old Day pulled his tee shot well left on the par-4 second hole. It was so far off line that he was on the far side of the creek that runs down that entire side of the hole.

Day, who was a shot off the lead at the time, sent out the search party in the knee-high rough.

First, Day had his caddie, Colin Swatton, go across the creek to locate the ball. Swatton took off his shoes and socks, then rolled up his pants. After Swatton made it safely to the other side, the ball was eventually found.

So Day also got down to his bare feet to make the trek through the water. Once there, he realized neither he nor Swatton had any clubs, so the caddie returned to retrieve one.

Swatton tossed it across to Day, who caught it, then proceeded to hit a screamer -- again, in bare feet -- across the fairway into the right rough.

Day had a smile on his face as he toweled off once back on the proper side of the hole.

From there, the Aussie chipped up and made the 12-foot par putt; all the while McIlroy sat and watched as he made a 4 of his own.

HOYLAKE, England -- Jason Day arrived at the first tee Friday morning wearing blue and white trainers tape around his left wrist. An afternoon earlier, Day was in such pain that there was some question whether he'd have to withdraw from the Open Championship.

An injured thumb has caused him to miss parts of the 2014 season, but it was his wrist that had him doubled over in pain Thursday. When the round of 1-over-par 73 was complete, he politely declined media requests and instead got treatment on his wrist.

On Friday, after another round of 73, he said the injury first occurred during a practice swing on the fifth hole in Thursday's play, "and something popped in my left side and it was like kind of a tingling sensation through my hand. And it went straight up my elbow."

Day said he experienced a similar injury last year, when something popped on his right side.

"Yesterday, I just tried to forget about it," he said. "And then today I hit it much better today."

Breakout candidates for 2014

February, 4, 2014
02/04/14
6:51
AM ET

A quick scan of the leaderboards at the biggest golf tournaments in the world on any given week will tell you that the sport's future is in a secure place.

Five of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking are under the age of 30. There's a two-time major champion walking the Earth right now who isn't yet 25, and the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year can't legally buy a beer yet in the United States.

So which players are best-positioned to move from promising to among the world's best? We at Numbers Game present five players who we believe are poised to take the next big steps in their respective careers -- the breakout players of 2014:

Trivia question

Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Answer below)

Jason Day

Day's star power in the world of golf is undeniable. At 26 years old and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Day has been a member of the past two Presidents Cup teams on the International side. So it's almost shocking that he has just a single win on the PGA Tour -- and that was in May 2010.

To say Day has a habit of rising to the occasion is an understatement. Day has 10 career top-three finishes in his PGA Tour career. Four of them have come in majors, and four more have come in either WGC or FedExCup events. In 13 career major starts, Day has six top-10 finishes and finished runner-up three times. And on another difficult course setup -- two weeks ago at Torrey Pines -- Day finished tied for second. The South Course at Torrey Pines played an average of plus-1.8 shots over par for the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, by far the toughest course on tour so far this season.

Day is one of two players to finish in the top three at the Masters twice in the past three years. Fellow countryman and last year's champion, Adam Scott, is the other. At the U.S. Open, Day is the only player to accomplish that feat, finishing second in 2011 and tied for second in 2013.

[+] Enlarge
Graham DeLaet
David Cannon/Getty ImagesGraham DeLaet already has a Presidents Cup appearance under his belt, but he could have an even bigger year in 2014.

Graham DeLaet

At the end of the 2013 season, DeLaet's extremely strong play at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship netted him more than $1 million in earnings and a spot on the Presidents Cup team. His improved putting, however, should lead him to even bigger things this year.

DeLaet's ball-striking ability has never been the question -- last year, he ranked third on tour in greens in regulation percentage (70.5) and led the tour in total driving. He also ranked inside the top 20 in both driving distance and average approach shot proximity. But DeLaet was 76th in strokes gained putting, 120th on putts made between 10 and 15 feet, and outside the top 100 on tour in several other key putting statistics.

DeLaet has finished tied for second in each of the past two weeks, and his putting is no small reason why -- he was 11th in the field in strokes gained putting at Torrey Pines, then sixth at TPC Scottsdale. DeLaet now ranks sixth on tour this season in the statistic, and is third in average distance of putts made. If DeLaet breaks into the winner's circle before the Masters, it should be no surprise.

Hideki Matsuyama

Just 21 years old and already 22nd in the world ranking, Matsuyama already has a pair of top-10 major finishes to his credit. The two-time Asian Amateur champion is lauded for his swing -- and the early returns in this wraparound season bear that out: top-20 finishes each of the past two weeks, including a tie for fourth at TPC Scottsdale. In 12 stateside official rounds this season, Matsuyama has shot par or better all 12 times with eight of those rounds in the 60s.

Matsuyama currently ranks inside the top 15 on tour in strokes gained putting, driving distance and average approach shot proximity. He's the only player currently in the top 15 in all three of those statistics.

Jordan Spieth

There have been countless superlatives used to describe Spieth's meteoric rise in the past 12 months, and it's hard to say any of them haven't been well-deserved.

Spieth won the John Deere Classic last year at age 19 -- the first teenager to win on tour in more than 80 years. When Fred Couples made him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, Spieth became the youngest team member ever on the U.S. side. And two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, he nearly became the youngest two-time winner on tour since 1932. Spieth tied for the most top-10 finishes on tour last year with nine, and was the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from no tour status to qualifying for the Tour Championship. We at Numbers Game would call that a decent year, to say the least.

Spieth doesn't have a top-20 finish in four major starts, but the 20-year-old definitely has the talent and demeanor to win on golf's biggest stages, as his amateur career would seem to dictate. In Spieth's lone full season at the University of Texas, he was a Ben Hogan Award finalist and led the Longhorns to the NCAA championship. He's also one of just two players to win the U.S. Junior Amateur multiple times. The other? Tiger.

Trivia answer

Question: Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links?

Answer: 62: David Duval (1997) and Tom Kite (1983).

Harris English

With a near-flatline heart rate seemingly at all times, the unflappable 24-year-old is already a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. No player has made more birdies this season than English, who currently is fifth on tour in adjusted scoring average. In 32 official rounds this season, English has carded scores of par or better 31 times, including all 16 rounds since Jan. 1.

English has made the cut in all three of his previous major championship starts, and this year will make his first career appearance at Augusta National. Expect English to be a contender during at least one of the majors this year.

Breakout candidates for 2014

February, 3, 2014
02/03/14
1:55
PM ET

A quick scan of the leaderboards at the biggest golf tournaments in the world on any given week will tell you that the sport's future is in a secure place.

Five of the top 20 players in this week's world ranking are under the age of 30. There's a two-time major champion walking the Earth right now who isn't yet 25, and the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year can't legally buy a beer yet in the United States.

So which players are best-positioned to move from promising to among the world's best? We at Numbers Game present five players who we believe are poised to take the next big steps in their respective careers -- the breakout players of 2014:

Trivia question

Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links? (Answer below)

Jason Day

Day's star power in the world of golf is undeniable. At 26 years old and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Day has been a member of the past two Presidents Cup teams on the International side. So it's almost shocking that he has just a single win on the PGA Tour -- and that was in May 2010.

To say Day has a habit of rising to the occasion is an understatement. Day has 10 career top-three finishes in his PGA Tour career. Four of them have come in majors, and four more have come in either WGC or FedExCup events. In 13 career major starts, Day has six top-10 finishes and finished runner-up three times. And on another difficult course setup -- two weeks ago at Torrey Pines -- Day finished tied for second. The South Course at Torrey Pines played an average of plus-1.8 shots over par for the week of the Farmers Insurance Open, by far the toughest course on Tour so far this season.

Day is one of two players to finish in the top three at the Masters twice in the past three years. Fellow countryman and last year's champion, Adam Scott, is the other. At the U.S. Open, Day is the only player to accomplish that feat, finishing second in 2011 and tied for second in 2013.

[+] Enlarge
Graham DeLaet
David Cannon/Getty ImagesGraham DeLaet already has a Presidents Cup appearance under his belt, but he could have an even bigger year in 2014.

Graham DeLaet

At the end of the 2013 season, DeLaet's extremely strong play at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship netted him more than $1 million in earnings and a spot on the Presidents Cup team. His improved putting, however, should lead him to even bigger things this year.

DeLaet's ball-striking ability has never been the question -- last year, he ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation percentage (70.5) and led the Tour in total driving. He also ranked inside the top 20 in both driving distance and average approach shot proximity. But DeLaet was 76th in strokes gained putting, 120th on putts made between 10 and 15 feet, and outside the top 100 on tour in several other key putting statistics.

DeLaet has finished tied for second in each of the past two weeks, and his putting is no small reason why -- he was 11th in the field in strokes gained putting at Torrey Pines, then sixth at TPC Scottsdale. DeLaet now ranks sixth on Tour this season in the statistic, and is third in average distance of putts made. If DeLaet breaks into the winner's circle before the Masters, it should be no surprise.

Hideki Matsuyama

Just 21 years old and already 22nd in the world ranking, Matsuyama already has a pair of top-10 major finishes to his credit. The two-time Asian Amateur champion is lauded for his swing -- and the early returns in this wraparound season bear that out: top-20 finishes each of the past two weeks, including a tie for fourth at TPC Scottsdale. In 12 stateside official rounds this season, Matsuyama has shot par or better all 12 times with eight of those rounds in the 60s.

Matsuyama currently ranks inside the top 15 on Tour in strokes gained putting, driving distance and average approach shot proximity. He's the only player currently in the top 15 in all three of those statistics.

Jordan Spieth

There have been countless superlatives used to describe Spieth's meteoric rise in the past 12 months, and it's hard to say any of them haven't been well-deserved.

Spieth won the John Deere Classic last year at age 19 -- the first teenager to win on Tour in more than 80 years. When Fred Couples made him a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, Spieth became the youngest team member ever on the U.S. side. And two weeks ago at Torrey Pines, he nearly became the youngest two-time winner on Tour since 1932. Spieth tied for the most top-10 finishes on Tour last year with nine, and was the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to go from no Tour status to qualifying for the Tour Championship. We at Numbers Game would call that a decent year, to say the least.

Spieth doesn't have a top-20 finish in four major starts, but the 20-year-old definitely has the talent and demeanor to win on golf's biggest stages, as his amateur career would seem to dictate. In Spieth's lone full season at the University of Texas, he was a Ben Hogan Award finalist and led the Longhorns to the NCAA championship. He's also one of just two players to win the U.S. Junior Amateur multiple times. The other? Tiger.

Trivia answer

Question: Who holds the course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links?

Answer: 62: David Duval (1997) and Tom Kite (1983).

Harris English

With a near-flatline heart rate seemingly at all times, the unflappable 24-year-old Englishman is already a two-time winner on the Tour. No player has made more birdies this season than English, who currently is fifth on Tour in adjusted scoring average. In 32 official rounds this season, English has carded scores of par or better 31 times, including all 16 rounds since Jan. 1.

English has made the cut in all three of his previous major championship starts, and this year will make his first career appearance at Augusta National. Expect English to be a contender during at least one of the majors this year.

A little match-play gamesmanship?

February, 24, 2013
02/24/13
6:23
PM ET
MARANA, Ariz. -- In their semifinal match on Sunday morning at Dove Mountain, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar were both on the 13th green. Day was laying 6 and Kuchar had a 24-foot birdie putt.

I know anything can happen in match play, but did Day really expect Kuchar to four-putt from 24 feet? Day should have conceded the hole after his fifth shot. But he made Kuchar putt. And only after Kuchar's ball was comfortably inside gimme range did Day concede.

Call it desperation or gamesmanship, Day's tactics didn't work. The 25-year-old Australian lost 4 and 3.

Lose the one and done?

As much as it's tempting to consider the Volvo Match Play Championship's convoluted format that lets a player continue even after a loss, the WGC-Accenture Match Play's one and done rule is the most straightforward way of carrying out an event of this nature.

The Volvo round-robin formula was devised primarily to avoid exactly what happened this week at Dove Mountain, with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy losing in the first round.

In 2011, Ian Poulter was able to win the Volvo tournament with two halves in matches.

The real allure of the WGC-Match Play is the one and done that so many of us hate. It wasn't fun to see Woods and McIlroy lose their first-round matches. But I appreciate the consistency and mental toughness it took for Kuchar and Hunter Mahan to make it through to the finals.

So while this tournament certainly needed its stars around longer this week for greater fan support, it should never consider watering down its format.

Eight is enough for Rory McIlroy

Matt Kuchar's victory at the WGC-Accenture Match Play marked the second consecutive year an American has won the first eight PGA Tour events of the year.

McIlroy broke that streak last year with a win at the Honda Classic, where he also took over No. 1 in the world.

Can the 23-year-old Northern Irishman do it again this year?

The Honda Classic, which starts on Thursday at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was McIlroy's real coming out party. Sure, he had won the U.S. Open in the previous year, but Honda marked his full ascent to the top of the game.

That week he held off Woods and Tom Gillis by 2 shots.

But nothing from his performance this week at the Match Play indicates McIlroy will be a repeat winner at PGA National. None of the questions about his drastic equipment changes were answered in his 1 down loss to Shane Lowry on Thursday.

Even if McIlroy can't win Honda, it's important for his confidence to have four good rounds with his new equipment. The longer he plays with mediocre results, the more difficult it's going to be for him to summon his game for one week at the Masters.

Deutsche Bank Champ. experts' picks

August, 29, 2012
08/29/12
10:16
AM ET
Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jason Day
He could be this year's golfer to go from starting the playoffs outside the top 100 (113th) in the FedEx Cup standings to the Tour Championship (top 30). Coming into the playoffs, he had only 13 starts on tour this year, with three missed cuts and a W/D, but a strong Sunday finish (65) just so he could qualify for the Deutsche Bank leads him to a course where he finished third last year, and was one of only four players to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Vijay Singh
At the TPC Boston, the 49-year-old Hall of Famer is a combined 38-under par in his two wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
TPC Boston is another place where Woods has performed well over the years. In seven appearances, he's been out of the top 11 just once, and he won in 2006.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Brandt Snedeker
Looking to solidify a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a potential captain's pick, the man who leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting posted a pair of top-5 finishes in his past two starts at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And what Ryder Cup captain wouldn't want the best putter on tour on his team?


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Nick Watney
In 2011 he had two victories, but before winning last week at The Barclays, he had only three top-10s this year, with eighth place his highest finish. Not the year the Butch Harmon student was planning for himself, but there's something to be said for getting hot at the right time. Even though this will be his fifth week in a row teeing it up, when you're rollin' . . . don't stop rollin'! And if Bill Haas won the big money Fed Ex Cup prize last year, it only would be fitting if his stunt double Watney put himself in a prime position to take it this year.

Farrell Evans: Bud Cauley
At The Barclays, the 22-year-old rookie out of the University of Alabama got his fourth top-10 in his past five starts.

Bob Harig: Nick Watney
He just showed how important a win is in the FedEx Cup playoffs, jumping from 49th in the standings to the top spot with his victory at The Barclays.

Kevin Maguire: Steve Stricker
A T-54 at last week's Barclays probably isn't the way Stricker wanted to start his playoffs, but the likely Ryder Cup captain's pick does own a pair of career victories in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He seems to relish playing at this time of year, so expect that to continue this week at TPC Boston.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: J.B. Holmes
After making seven cuts in a row, it's almost a blessing in disguise that he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship. Holmes has played himself into a position to make the Tour Championship with a good week, and the last time he played this week's course, in 2010, he finished 10th. It's a bomber's course and he is still a bomber.

Farrell Evans: Jason Day
The 24-year-old Australian got a tie for third in Boston last year. In a disappointing 2012 season, Day comes into this week 88th in the standings. He would love to make it back to the Tour Championship, where he finished last year in a tie for sixth.

Bob Harig: Martin Flores
He missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and at The Barclays last week, dropping him 12 spots to the 100th and final qualifying position for the Deutsche Bank Championship. He clearly needs to get something going if he wants to prolong his playoffs.

Kevin Maguire: Dicky Pride
Talk about playing with house money. Pride clinched his tour card for 2013 behind the strength of three top-10 finishes this year. He hadn't had one previously since mid-2009. And at 96th in the FedEx Cup standings, a strong week gets him into the third leg of the PGA Tour playoffs, a spot he likely couldn't have imagined at the beginning of the season.


Winner


Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
Because he wasn't a member of the tour last year, he wasn't eligible for the playoffs. He did compete in 2010, with a 37th-place finish at the TPC Boston. He has two more years of experience and two majors under his belt, and I expect a very good week on a course that sets up well for his style of golf. With a tour scoring average of 69.02, if he just holds his average, it'll be an easy top 10. I expect much more than that this week.

Farrell Evans: Brandt Snedeker
The former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion finished second at The Barclays. He's playing this week in Boston hoping that a great tournament will get him a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Last year, the former Vanderbilt star finished in a tie for third at the Deutsche Bank.

Bob Harig: Adam Scott
Save for his near-miss at the Open Championship, it's been a quiet year for the Aussie, who won his first PGA Tour event nine years ago at TPC Boston. A victory this week puts him near the top and in the running for the FedEx Cup.

Kevin Maguire: Jason Day
Never underestimate motivation. The Aussie, who's finished T-3 and T-2 in his previous two outings at TPC Boston, is currently on the outside looking in at next week's BMW Championship. Without a strong finish, his playoffs could end Saturday. Don't expect the new dad to get some extra time off on the holiday weekend.

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