Date: September 21, 2015
Author: Mike Clayton

Clayton: Will the big 3 continue to dominate?

Jason Day duly walked away with the BMW Championship by six strokes after snuffing out the field's hopes with a 61-63 start to his week.

He admitted to the pressure over the weekend in part due to the ever-present golfing fear of losing a big lead, but also because a win would take the rank of the No.1 player from Rory McIlroy.

The American television commentator announced Day as the 19th player to ascend to the top of the world rankings, conveniently forgeting the careers of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus.

The world rankings began as a commercial construct in the mid-1980s with a sponsor's name attached and attempted to measure the worth of the play of golfers who competed all over the world but rarely against each other.

They have come to mean something as those who populate the top 50 earn places in the major championships and the WGC events, but ultimately the vast majority of golf pros exist on their position on the respective money lists of the tour they plan on. It is that number which ultimately determines each player’s employment prospects for the following season.

Of course, to be ranked as the best at any given moment is a reflection and acknowledgment of some brilliant play over a sustained period and Day has clearly been the dominant player this northern summer.

He fell short at St Andrews but has won four times since including a major championship and his streak of brilliant play puts him statistically ahead of McIlroy and Jordan Spieth on the rankings.

Some talk of a new ‘Big Three’ — a reference to the original Mark McCormack concept and the three dominant players of the 1960s Palmer, Nicklaus and Gary Player. Back then it took a number of years of sustained dominance and great play to form the notion of a trio of players being above the rest of their competition. Now it only takes a year or two.

The question is whether the three best players in the game this year will continue to dominate the conversation. McIlroy might be at the head of the "Who wins if they all play their absolute bes?" list, but Day’s play this year surely puts him close.

Statistically he is in the top six in greens hit in regulation figures, only four on the tour putt better and unsurprisingly the combination means he makes the most birdies. Only the ridiculous drivers Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson are longer from the tee.

It hardly needs to be said Day is playing with great confidence and assurance brought on by skills honed to a level unmatched by anyone currently on the tour. That he is relatively crooked from the tee is of little consequence as he hits so far and the extra few excursions into the rough are negated by how much closer to the target he drives than shorter and more accurate hitters.

Unlike McIlroy and Spieth, it took the Queenslander a number of years to win with any regularity in North America. It was hardly because of a failure to contend and in the biggest championships he had been close many times.

How long it lasts in anyone’s guess, but everything suggests he is going to be close to, or at the top of, the mountain for a long time.