Date: December 15, 2006
Author: Alistair Hogg

Another Day in paradise

By Alistair Hogg At 19 years of age, Jason Day has completed what many golfers struggle to do in a lifetime. He&aposs won a couple of Australian Junior Order of Merits, claimed a Master of the Amateurs jacket and criss-crossed the United States playing in tournaments while enhancing his rapidly growing reputation every step of the way. The Queenslander also put pen to paper on a deal with Taylor Made and Adidas making him one of the hottest, and best paid, rookies to come out of Australia in recent years. So what next for the precocious teen? After turning pro following his Masters of the Amateurs success, Day shifted to the United States in an attempt to force his way onto the PGA Tour. Like most golfers, he was required to undergo the gruelling experience of Q-School, the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Day successfully negotiated the first three stages and made it through to the rigorous six-round final which was held at the TPC Stadium and West courses in California. Unfortunately for the Queenslander, he was unable to card low scores in the early going and as any tour graduate will acknowledge, that is a pivotal component of making the grade. Obviously disappointed with the final outcome, a pensive Day reflected on the tournament and was able to identify what went wrong. “Looking back now, I didn&apost really get pumped up for it,” he said. “To me, in my head I felt like it was such a relief to get through second stage, I relaxed going into third stage and I didn t play on through it.” “Either way I thought I was going to get a card, I took it too easy. I should have refocused and gone on with it.” Day was drawn to start the final Q-School stage on the more difficult Stadium course and as luck would have it, the weather blew a gale which goes some way to explaining his score of 77. “That got me under the pump a bit,” he said. “It put a bit of pressure on me to go out and shoot a good one. Obviously I didn&apost play well the next day. It just wasn&apost enough.” Day backed up with a 75 and 77 which all but put him out of contention for a tour card with three rounds remaining. It was a tough lesson to learn, but he will no longer be taking anything for granted. Despite falling at the final hurdle for a 2007 tour card, Day has had the opportunity of playing in a number of PGA events around the United States, qualifying for most through sponsors&apos exemptions. His best result came at the Reno-Tahoe Open when he posted 14-under to claim a share of 11th spot. Three weeks earlier he shot 12-under to finish tied for 13th in the US Bank Championship in Milwaukee. “The two top 15&aposs at Reno and Milwaukee were the highlights of my year because the fans were behind me. I was playing well and I was having a fun time,” Day said. His brief stint at PGA Tour events gave Day the opportunity to meet the best in world golf while providing him with invaluable experience that will stand him in good stead as he seeks to further develop his game. “I met a lot of the guys I&aposve been watching since I was a little guy,” he said. These &aposguys&apos just happened to be Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els. “I watched those guys practice on the range. I watch how they go about things both in practice and during normal rounds, but the events have mainly given me playing experience which is what I need.” “I see the best players train and play, so obviously I need to step up and practice harder than those guys to beat them!” Day has made the cut in all but two of the seven PGA events that he has played, which is a testament to the concentration and consistency of the promising rookie. He hit the ball well, created birdie opportunities and maintained command of his game. “When you look at the stats at the first five tournaments or so, I was kind of up there in the high ranks,” he said. “I knew what was going on, I knew where the ball was going and I knew if I missed a green I could get up and down.” The amount of self-belief and confidence in his game was quite astounding for a kid who has only just turned 19. “I guess confidence and you mental approach to everything is one of the biggest things in the golf game. Obviously if you look at Tiger Woods, his confidence and mental game is really strong. That&aposs what he takes on course and that&aposs why he wins a lot. The not as confident guys are the fringe cutters who aren&apost making it big and sit just on the line. I guess that if you are very confident out there that you&aposll go a long way. It helps a lot.” If Day continues to practice what he preaches, he will eventually be one of those who go a long way. But for now, it&aposs time for a well-earned break as he downs the clubs and heads to Japan for a holiday. Following that, it&aposs back home for events around Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States to tackle the 2007 Nationwide Tour, as he continues along the path to a successful golfing career.