Date: August 17, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Day’s unbreakable bond pays off

It was Jason Day’s third major, his first Masters appearance.

It was April 2011 and there was already a little buzz about Day’s major championship pedigree after his top 10 finish at Whistling Straits in the previous August, months after his first win on the US PGA Tour at the Byron Nelson Championship.

Coincidentally, it was my first major championship as reporter, and with stars in my eyes, I wandered up to 1979 Masters champ Fuzzy Zoeller to get his thoughts on what it took to win first up at Augusta as he’d been the only player in 75 years to do so.

He told me, and I duly reported, that it would be better for Day to have a local caddie; that however good Col Swatton was on his fellow Queenslander’s bag, he wouldn’t have the Augusta National “smarts” to get the job done.

It was about 36 hours later that an angry woman, I soon learnt to be Lisa Swatton, approached me wondering “what the hell” I’d written.

I was on the fifth hole and it took me until halfway up the seventh to appease her that there was no ill intention, that I’d only reported the thoughts of someone who had a green jacket. And that I definitely had no doubts on her husband’s credentials or importance.

It was a rocky introduction to the Day camp’s tightness. It was also testament to them all that they soon let their defences down and spoke freely again to me knowing there was no malice intended, perhaps only naivety in my actions.

Day would finish tied for second that week, totally disproving Zoeller’s theory and reinforcing the strength in the beliefs of all in the camp — that they indeed had the tools to scale this mountain.

From that point on, I put my own observations to the myriad stories of Col Swatton’s importance in Day’s life.

And they’re all so true.

The cheat notes on that five-year course would have been to look at today’s final round by the 27-year-old and his stocky, gregarious, knowledgeable mate/caddie/coach/mentor.

The upshot that we’ll see replayed 1000 times in the next week are the tears on the 18th green as Swatton, wife Ellie and son Dash all hug the teary-eyed PGA champion.

But the importance of Swatton on Day’s decisions could never be overstated.

He gave him rapid-fire bail-out numbers and instructions as he drove into trouble on the eighth.

He made Day laugh after he salvaged par from an incredibly chunky pitch shot to the ninth green that went about half the expected distance – right when the heat was bubbling to the surface.

They talked through the key moments when Day found back-nine troubles – left of the 15th fairway and, critically, in the fairway bunker on the side of 14th from where Day made an incredible birdie that was ultimately the circuit-breaker in finding a comfortable buffer.

By the time Day hit his long iron second shot to the par-5 16th, the bond was stronger than it had ever been.

The world No.4 struck it well, watched the ball nestle down on the fringe from where birdie was almost a given – then promptly turned to stare at Swatton for about five seconds before whacking him with a playful thump to his chest.

That was the moment.

Sure there were nervous times in the next 20 minutes as Day carved out the lowest total score against par in major championship history.

But that was surely the moment when a bond forged in 15 years of intimate torture – that even the greatest biographer will never mirror – became worth all the effort.

It’s not the money. It’s the Wannamaker Trophy.

The pair has gone through everything together – as one tight, inseparable unit.

Several times Swatton has thought his charge was nearing the holy grail, only to see it wrenched from his hands.

Nine top-10s in majors, including three runner-up finishes, had led to this point today.

That’s including collapses with vertigo, agonising thumb injuries and a raft of other smaller injuries that have, each time he’s taken a peek at the summit, conspired to send him back down to major championship base camp.

But not this time.

You could almost hear the breath rush out of their chests as Day crushed his drive up the last hole to effectively allay any dangers of calamity.

“Just hit a good, solid one,” was Swatton’s last instruction on the 18th tee and, with job dutifully accomplished, Day returned the love with a knowing nod as the greatest 450m walk he’ll ever take lay in front of him.

Day is anything but a party animal, but it’s hard to imagine the duo and their families — such a united force in surviving all the pitfalls of professional golf around the United States — not knocking the froth off a couple of beers tonight.

They’ll be emotional, too.

But if ever anyone has earnt a happy drink on a major championship Sunday, it’s Jason Day.