There are few media obligations in sport more acceptable to an athlete than a major championship-winning press conference.
And from past less-than-glorious results, to his winning secrets; from his inner emotions to his fight with alcohol before he was even a teenager, Jason Day laid it completely bare in his US PGA Championship media finale.
Here’s the transcript of our newest major champion’s winning press conference:
Moderator: Good evening. Welcome back to the 97th PGA Championship here at Whistling Straits. We are here with PGA Champion Jason Day. Thank you, and congratulations. Well done. You're a PGA Champion. That cherished first Major is now yours.
Tell us, did you feel as good out there as you actually played today?
JASON DAY: No. It was probably the hardest round of golf that I've ever had to play. Just thinking about it, knowing that I was very confident going into the round, feeling good about myself and feeling good about how I was driving the ball, how I was hitting the shots into the greens, and especially with how I was putting.
I knew today was going to be tough, but I didn't realize how tough it was going to be. I learned a lot about myself, again, being able to finish the way I did. The experiences that I've had in the past with previous Major finishes has definitely helped me prepare myself for a moment like this.
To be able it walk up the 18th hole and finish the way I did, it was just a lot of emotion that came out of me. I haven't had really much time to think about what I just accomplished and I guess you can take me off the best players without a Major now. So, I mean it's good to be a Major champion.
Moderator: Let's ask you about your score. 20-under par, magical number in the context of the history of golf. It's a lofty accomplishment. Did it register when you were out there today or does it register now?
JASON DAY: I had no idea about the record until after it was over and someone told me about it. So, the amount of history that's been through our game, in our sport, to be able to hold that record currently is really amazing. Just there's been so many fantastic golfers throughout the history of our sport and playing so many Major Championships, but for me to be able to get to 20-under par and hold that record, I mean, some of the names I never thought I would be able to put my name with.
I just can't think of it. It really is just something that I haven't been able to sit down and just kind of absorb and really kind of cherish. I'm hoping it sticks around for a long time, because I would like to have that record for a long time.
Moderator: Questions, please?
Q. How much did it weigh on you being in that conversation of best player not to win a Major? And secondly, on 16, what was your club on the second shot and did you think of laying up at all?
JASON DAY: I think it would have been tough for me — it would have been very tough for me to kind of come back from a Major Championship such as this if I didn't finish it off. Knowing that I had the 54-hole led or tied for the 54-hole lead for the last three Majors and not being able to finish, it would have been tough for me mentally, to really kind of come back from that. Even though I feel like I'm a positive person, I think that kind of in the back of my mind something would have triggered and I would have gone maybe I can't really finish it off.
But there are a lot of trying times out there for me, really trying to stay present for me, trying to pull myself back, especially on the back side, because all I could think about was this (Indicating). And it was hard to kind of not think about it and I had to kind of pull myself back and really grind back.
To be able to hit a great drive down 16, I hit 4-iron into the green, so I had plenty of club there. But after seeing what Jordan did, kind of eased my mind a little bit more. Knowing that, okay, I could still like hit it out right and I could get up-and-down. But I hit this nice high towering draw 4-iron. And to be honest, the kid just doesn't go away. I'm thinking that I'll get this birdie, I'll stretch my lead, and he has no stance over in the bunker and hits a shot to a foot. It's just, it baffles me the stuff that he can prove out there. Obviously, with the level of play that he's been playing this year, it's no wonder he's No. 1 in the world right now.
He's going to be around in competition-wise in Major Championships for a long, long time and he's going to be the heavy favourite going forward. But to be able to hold him off, knowing that he's going to be the best player in the world now, the way I played, it felt great.
Q. Some of us in the room here were on 18 at St. Andrews last month and saw the emotion power out of you there on 18 when you left there. Can you talk a little bit about that? Just describe those emotions and then compare them with what you were feeling on 18 here today.
JASON DAY: Yeah, just pure frustration. When I was standing there, the shocked belief that I left the putt short to give myself a chance of getting into the playoff. I mean, I understand that you can — everyone is in the background saying, yeah, you've got to hit it past the hole, yeah, I understand that. But you have to read the putt like you're going to hit the putt to get it in the hole. And unfortunately, if you're standing out there and reading the putt and you're thinking, okay, I'm going to hit it a little harder, you're going to miss the putt anyway. So when I hit the putt I was just shocked that it pulled up, because I hit a great line.
I played so great that week with only having three bogeys all week and that was all in the second round, and coming up so short and I really thought that my first Major Championship was going to be at the Open Championship this year. I really did think that. The U.S. Open was very — it was a tough task for me, but I really thought The Open Championship was going to be mine.
But you flip it now and I'm here at the PGA Championship with the amount of emotion that's come out of me, and I've said it before, but just the journey that I've been on, knowing that when my father passed away, there was — I wouldn't have been here if my father didn't pass away. And that's just because of that door closed for me, but another opportunity opened up for me. That was for my mom to sacrifice and my sisters to sacrifice for me, so I could get away to a golf academy and work hard and meet Col and work hard on my game.
And to be able to have Colin on the bag at the first Major Championship win, walking up 18, knowing that I've got the trophy, it was just hard. I was trying to hold back tears over the first putt. And when I saw the putt go up to half a foot, I just couldn't stop crying. It's just a lot of hard work that I've been putting into this game to dedicate myself to have a shot at glory, have a shot at greatness. And that's what we all work towards. It's a good feeling.
Q. Earlier Jordan talked about your shot on No. 11 where he just kind of said, okay, he's on his game. Were any of your shots today ones that you said I'm hitting it well, these shots, I'm in a good position to control my own destiny?
JASON DAY: The one on 14, the wedge out of the bunker on 14 was special. But I think just having the confidence with my driver, knowing that I could get up there and hit the drives, especially down 11. Hitting it 373 or 380 down there and having a wedge in my hand to a par-5 definitely helps. But setting up with confidence and belief in my swing to be able to hit drives over 300 yards down the middle in the middle of a Major Championship is a tough thing to do.
But I felt great. Me and Col have been working so hard on the swing, especially over the last few weeks, and the driving, it propelled me to win this week. If I didn't drive as long and as straight as I did, there's no chance I would have won this tournament just hitting it just average.
Q. Now that you won your first Major, does this free your spirit and allow you to play with a lot more freedom now?
JASON DAY: We'll see in about two weeks. I think that right now it's just really tough to kind of soak all of this in. I'm hoping it really does. I'm hoping that it kind of propels me to do what Jordan has done.
But right now I know exactly what I have done to get myself in a position where I'm holding the trophy right now. So as long as I keep working on those things and get the process right, I know that there's going to be plenty of these to hold as long as I really am feeling motivated and I want it more than anyone else. That's kind of where you get that free will to go out there and just let everything fly out there on the golf course. And that's from all the hard work that I put in before tournaments such as this.
Q. I believe your first top-10 in a Major was here in 2010 at the PGA Championship. How much confidence did that give you? Was that a breakthrough? And how special will this place be now in your career?
JASON DAY: I always said to Col that I don't really play social rounds. It's very hard to get me out playing golf. There's only a certain few places where I would actually come back. Being a professional golfer, there's a certain few places where I would actually come back and play on a non-tournament day, and this is one of the places. Just from how beautiful the scenery is, how nice the people are. Kohler is a fantastic little town. Sheboygan is a fantastic little town.
Like you said, I had my first top-10 in a Major here. I had an opportunity to win. I played with Martin Kaymer in the last round, and playing with him and seeing what he did that day, being as patient as he was when he wasn't driving the ball as straight as he would like to definitely helped me mentally and physically understanding the game of golf, especially with the swing, you needed to finish.
But from there, I mean, it was just knowing that I could play on a golf course such as this on a Major Championship level at such a young age and really compete and play against the best players in the world. And from there, it was just a lot of good memories coming back from 2010. Knowing that I could really take on this course and be aggressive with it, if it was attackable and receptive out there, which it was this week. It's no indication — well, I mean, it's an indication of what the scores were, so you know.
Overall, I'm just pleased with how things went for me. I'm over the moon. But it's just a special place that I will never forget, just from the experience that I've had just seeing the fans out there, the volunteers, being able to walk down 18. I mean, walk the whole course. And it being a tough tournament for me. But feeling, looking like it was easy.
Q. When you first realized you were going to play with Jordan today, did it give you any pause, like, man, this is going to be a little tougher to win? And now that you have, is there extra satisfaction in having dusted him?
JASON DAY: It was tough. He said to me in the scoring hut, he goes, there's nothing I could do. It's a good feeling when someone like Jordan, who is playing phenomenal golf right now, says that. Because it means that he left everything out there on the golf course and my play this week was just so much better, well better than everyone else. And that feels good to me, because I was the last man standing, which is great.
And like I said before, in previous finishes at Major Championships, I was one of those guys where I was so close and I wasn't the last man standing and it was frustrating for me. To be able to play with Jordan today, which to me personally I thought he was the heavy favourite, definitely with the fans, I know that they wanted him to win. And going through all that stuff, I mean he was holing putts and making birdies and just him sticking around. He played fantastic golf today.
But for me to really kind of be patient with myself and be disciplined and give myself the opportunities, just really it does wonders for your confidence. And I'm hoping this is kind of a springboard for me to really do some fantastic, great things in the future, especially playing with Jordan and winning the PGA Championship.
Q. What steps have you taken over the years to make yourself strong mentally?
JASON DAY: I've seen, I think, multiple mental coaches, worked with a thing called FocusBands. I've worked with so many things before, mental coaches and FocusBands, and a number of techniques and stuff like that. But the biggest thing that prepares you for something like this is just the shear experience of failure, looking at failure not as a negative but as a positive. Knowing that you can learn from anything, even if it's bad or good. And that really gets you mentally tough.
Being close at the U.S. Open, being close at the Open Championship this year, being close at Augusta, all that has — and I said it earlier this week, where I feel like all these experiences that I had is going to set me up for something big in the future, and for me it happened this week. That's from the experience that I had in those Major Championships. Made me mentally tough and really understand what I needed to do physically and mentally to prepare myself to win a tournament such as this.
Q. You and Rory and Jordan have now won five of the last six Majors. You are the old man in that group. How do you see the next five to ten years playing out?
JASON DAY: As long as I am healthy, I feel like I'm going to be there a long time. I still want to accomplish that No. 1 goal of mine, which is to be the best player in the world. I'm still motivated and still very hungry for that, even after this win. Stuff like this is just the icing on the top of the cake, when you work so hard and being able to achieve something like this.
But I think golf is in a very healthy stage now. I mean, I felt like a few years ago, it was kind of three to five years ago, it was kind of struggling a little bit with the identity of who was really going to be that No. 1 player in the world, who was going to be the next best thing, and kind of Rory came out and was really dominating. But there was no one really kind of challenging him for that role.
For young guys like myself and Jordan and Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama, a lot of those guys are starting to play better golf and starting to challenge. So that's what I'm looking forward to the future is the shear competition of being able to fight against these guys each week and have that competition and fight against them. It's going to be a lot of fun over the next five to ten years.
Q. You mentioned this would have been the toughest one for you to not finish off. Of all the close calls you've had in Major, the Masters, the last month's Open Championship, what was the toughest one to get, to kind of get over for you and why? And what changed in terms of how you maybe viewed those types of experiences?
JASON DAY: Augusta 2013, when I had the lead, on 16, that was a tough one to finish. That was a tough one to finish, that was a tough one to get over, just knowing that I had the lead. It was in my hands and I had three holes left.
It took me a little bit to get over, but it was more frustrating because I know that just from what — if I had my head on now, back then, in 2013, I know what I would have finished. I honestly believe I could have finished it off.
But getting back to the question that I had earlier about mental toughness, if I didn't have that failure, I wouldn't be standing here today with the trophy. And I said earlier, some people get there quicker than others, some people make it look easier than others, and I'm just glad that it's finally happened, because it was kind of wearing on me a little bit. It doesn't help the media, hearing about it all the time. But I'm glad to take my name off that list and move forward from here.
Now I can just focus on what I need to do and try and finish the year off strong.
Q. As you approached the 18th tee, what was going through your mind? Was it kind of hard to not think of that last hole?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I honestly said, don't double bogey. Don't hit it left, don't double bogey. Hit it as hard as you can up the right side. And I mean, I hammered the drive up the right side and — I'm being honest here, I was over the second shot, and I'm like, don't hit it short in the water. It was a mile short, but I had 191 yards with a bit of wind into me. So all those things run through your head.
But that's the moments like we were talking about, where you have to pull yourself back and say, no, I'm not going to have that. I'm going to stamp my foot on that thought and move forward and try and grind this out and really work on the process of getting the shot right. And both those times happened to me. And I fought through those negative thoughts and ended up finishing it off, which is feeling great, because that 17 and 18 is a tough finish, especially with that wind. It was a lot of fun to be able to do that.
Q. How are we going to control this guy two seats to my right?
JASON DAY: How do I what?
Q. How are you going to control this guy two seats to my right?
JASON DAY: I can do that.
Q. And on a serious note, at Akron last week, you shot us a text from Greg Norman, post-St. Andrews. What did he play in terms of your boyhood career, in terms of inspiration there into the pro ranks and to get to this spot where you are now?
JASON DAY: Greg was a little bit before my time when he was No. 1. He was a little bit before my time. But just the support, every time that I'm in a Major Championship, every time that I play in a PGA TOUR event that I'm close and I don't finish, Greg is there to send me a text and say, don't worry about it, you're going to have plenty of these, keep your head up, keep moving forward, don't stop fighting. Stuff like that.
He's been such a great champion and to be able to bounce ideas off him, bounce advice off him, really kind of talk — I said to him, after the Shark Shootout, was there anything that you saw in my game that you could possibly improve? So we talked about it. And to be able to have a golfer that was No. 1 in the world for 331 weeks, is pretty amazing to have that advice.
Q. Would you please share a store or two that tells us a little bit about how much the importance of Col Swatton in your life?
JASON DAY: He's come a long way, because the first time he caddied for me was at the Queensland Open at Ipswich Golf Club, I think it was Ipswich, and we had a pull cart. So a little trolley. And he couldn't make it up the 18th fairway. He was that buggered that he couldn't make it up. So now he can carry 45 pounds four rounds around this place. I mean, he's come a long way.
But the guy is a very, very hard worker. I wouldn't say he's a perfectionist, because sometimes you lose sight of, you get a little bit too biased when you're kind of a perfectionist. So he's open to learning. And that's what I've learned most about Colin. And what's rubbed on me the most is that he's always kind of questioning, okay, is this right? Is this wrong? Asking questions to the right people. And to really be able to be open to learning and growing as a player and as a person, if you don't do that, you stop. And that's the biggest thing that I've learned off him is to really understand and listen to my team and learn from every experience.
And he's been there for me since I was 12 and a half years old. It's been a long-time relationship between me and Colin. For him to be on the bag, not only for my first win on the PGA TOUR, but my first Major Championship win, I mean, he's taken me from a kid that was getting in fights at home and getting drunk at 12 and not heading in the right direction to a Major champion winner. And there's not many coaches that can say that in many sports. So, he means the world to me. I love him to death.
Q. On that, where would you be? You mentioned you were a rat bag. You mentioned you were a drinker. Like what would have happened to you? Would you still even be here? What would have happened?
JASON DAY: If my dad didn't pass away, I don't think I would have been in a good spot. That's what I was saying, when a door closes, another door opens up for that opportunity. And where I was based, I mean it wasn't the greatest place. But who knows where I would have been. I honestly don't know. I could not tell you.
And I've changed so much from where I was and what I saw as a kid to where I am now. I mean, it's just an amazing, amazing feeling, an amazing story to really be able to tell people that, give them insight on what I felt and the emotions that I've gone through growing up as a kid in Australia and losing my dad very young. But to be honest, I have no idea where I would be, what I would be doing, probably wouldn't be doing much of anything. And I wouldn't be challenging myself and trying to better myself if I didn't have the people that I have in my life today.
Q. With that said, like this must blow your mind where you are.
JASON DAY: Yeah, that's why a lot of emotion came out on 18. That's why a lot of emotion came out for me. Just knowing that, I mean, my mom took a second mortgage out on the house, borrowed money from my aunt and uncle, just to get me away from where I was to go to school, seven hours drive.
I remember growing up, we — my mom, I mean, we were poor. We weren't really poor. I mean, I remember watching her cut the lawn with a knife because we couldn't afford to fix the lawn mower. I remember not having a hot water tank, so we had to use a kettle for hot showers. So, you know, we would put the kettle on and go have a shower, and then my mom would come bring three or four kettles in, just to heat them up. And it would take five, ten minutes for every kettle to heat up.
So just to be able to sit in front of you guys today and think about those stories, it gets me emotional knowing that I'm the PGA Champion now and it feels good.
Q. Now that you've obviously achieved golfing immortality that you've spoken about a few times, like along the way, what are some of the mental tweaks that you sort of touched on before that you made which you're most proud of?
JASON DAY: The belief in myself. I didn't believe that I was one of the best players in the world. And it could go as early as this year. Up until that, at that point where — at the Farmers, it definitely helped a lot with my confidence. But I really, it was hard for me to believe that I was one of the best players in the world.
And being able to win at the match play, but winning this year and then backing it up and playing well in the Major Championships, it felt like I started to turn a corner.
Something happened to me at the Open Championship this year. I don't know what it was, I don't know how it happened, but I was sitting there on Sunday of the fourth round, Monday morning, and I felt a calmness over me. And it just something clicked inside of me. And since then, I've been calm ever since. And I could not put my finger on what happened and why it clicked, but it just happened. And even though there could be stuff flying around me out there on the golf course, the ability to keep my cool and keep calm has happened since The Open Championship.
Q. Congrats, Jason. Can you talk about the moment you shared with your caddie and then with your family afterwards after winning this championship and the emotion that came out in those moments?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I said to Bud, Bud Martin, my agent, last week, I was frustrated with the WGC finish. I should have been better. And I said, no one's going to beat me this week. Before the week started. I'm going to win this week. And I've been with — like I said earlier, I've been with Bud ever since I was 16. Colin ever since I was 12 and a half. And then Ellie, my wife, I've known her since I was 17. So my team is, we're very close, very, very close team. And I don't have a bunch of "yes" men around. I've got people that are very honest and care about not only my golf game, but who I am as a person. So to be able to share it with them, know the heartaches that we have been through together or that I've been through, they have been through with me, and to be able to finish it off the way I did and have Colin with me, but also having Bud and Ellie in the stands and my son, Dash, watching, and knowing that this is the time and this is going to happen this time was something that you can never forget. I mean, it's going to — I'm going to think about it for the rest of my life and I know, I know I did it and I know that we did it together.
Moderator: Jason Day, champion of the 97th PGA Championship. Thank you.
JASON DAY: Thank you.