Date: May 16, 2016
Author: Mike Clayton

Clayton: If No.1 is not undisputed, it’s close

Early in the week of last years Open Championship at St Andrews I suggested to fellow columnist John Huggan Jason Day might be the winner.

‘Tied 4th’ was his typically honest, blunt and quick Scottish assessment of Day’s chances and he turned out to be exactly right. Day and Jordan Spieth both finished a single shot behind Zac Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen and the Queenslander must have headed to Edinburgh seriously disappointed with his week.

From then he has clearly been the dominant player on the tour, winning seven times and all of them big events including The USPGA, The World Match Play and now The Players Championship. Of the six stroke play events he has won Day has only failed to break 70 four times in two dozen rounds with stroke average of just under 67 a round. It’s a rarified number matched only by champions like Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Since the demise of the Woods game a few players have kicked around amongst themselves the right to be called the best in the world.

Jordan Spieth had an amazing run from the Australian Open in 2014, when he finished with a ridiculous 63, including wins at Augusta and the U.S Open. Rory McIlroy looks the most impressive of them all but he flies in and out on the back of a seemingly inconsistent putter. The consensus seems to be if he plays his best he wins but Day surely now threatens even that view.

Adam Scott too has had a good run of it lately but for him the “it’s later than you think’ adage of the famous Hawthorn football coach John Kennedy applies.

Like McIlroy, Scott always looks to be swinging beautifully and hitting well enough to win most weeks but Day seems to have added something of the freakish ability of Woods to score well every single week.

As great as Tiger was from tee to green his almost unprecedented level of dominance was a result of his short shots and Day hit some tremendous little shots around the greens in Florida.

He needed to on Sunday’s front nine as he missed six of the nine greens on his way to a scrappy two-over par nine but then he made a couple of decent length for birdies at the 10th and 12th and it was all over.

Of course, the television commentators try and keep it interesting and the silly island green hole always offers up the possibility of a catastrophe but such was Day’s control he was going to neither make it interesting nor dump a wedge into the lake on the 17th.

For Day the challenge now turns to Oakmont and the U.S Open. It’s one of the hardest courses in America with its fast, severely contoured greens and narrow fairways lined with high rough.

It is always a brutally difficult and grinding championship to win but if he were to join David Graham and Geoff Ogilvy as the third Australian winner there would be no question about who was the best player in the world.