Fellow major champion Adam Scott has lavished praise on Jason Day after his fellow Queenslander's stunning PGA Championship triumph at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin this week.
Day became the fifth Australian-born winner of the year’s traditional season-ending Major and just 16 months after Scott became the first Australian in some 77 years to win the Masters.
Victory along the shoreline at Lake Michigan finally erased the disappointment for golf’s ‘Nearly Man’ who had been so close to savouring Major Championship so often over the past five years.
“I was very proud of Jason how he won last week as he’s been so close and we saw how much it meant to him when he finished,” said Scott on the eve of this week’s Wyndham Championship.
“It’s good to see as there is so many guys throwing their name into the ring and kind of claiming their time, and we’re seeing who the best golfers in this decade are as it’s becoming so clear.
“Now with his PGA victory Jason’s name is set in stone in winning a major and good for him.
“And winning a major in your twenties now puts so many opportunities in front of him so that he will have a great career.”
And Scott, who in many ways is now the mentor to this younger breed of Australian-born up-and-coming superstars, takes no credit in Day’s three-stroke success over new World No. 1 Jordan Spieth.
“I don’t know if I can take any credit in what Jason has managed to achieve and maybe that is something you will have to ask Jason, but there’s no doubt, and going off my own experience two years ago at Augusta, that even then Jason was so close to win then,” said Scott.
“Certainly his motivation in wanting to capture a first major is so high, and everyone’s is, but you can see that Jason has pushed himself so hard going into the majors and just like I felt in winning the Masters, and he’s been knocking on that door and hopefully this victory will be a great thing for his career in that he got over that hurdle fairly early and he free up so much so any other major victory will be a bonus now for Jason.”
TOUGH PILL TO SWALLOW IF JASON DIDN’T WIN PGA
Scott agrees that after the bitter disappointment of missing the St. Andrews Open Championship playoff by a shot that it would have been a ‘tough pill to swallow’ if Day did not succeed at Whistling Straits.
“If would have been a very tough pill to swallow if Jason had not won last Sunday and it would have been hard to get over that,” admits Scott.
“Obviously, you question many things when you go so close to winning a Major and you don’t succeed, and considering it is eight month to the next major at Augusta and the chance to do something that you really want to do, so that would be a tough period of time for him.
“Fortunately, Jason does not have that worry and the way he played was just phenomenal in also setting a new 72-hole winning record, and he made it look pretty easy.
“He absorbed everything Jordan threw at him, and just so determined to get the job done.”
COLIN SWATTON HASN’S SMOTHERED DAY
And Scott, as Day had done so eloquently last Sunday night, singled out Col Swatton, Day’s long-time friend, mentor, coach and caddie.
“Col deserves so much credit for the influence he’s had on Jason as he’s brought confidenece to Jason’s golf game, and not only is Col a great bloke but he’s managed Jason so well. He hasn’t smothered him or he hasn’t let him loose, so he’s had him going down the right path for a very long time and that’s testement to Colin and his knowledge of the game.
“And Colin is to be praised for seeing the big picture of what this young man we saw lift the trophy last Sunday needed to do to achieve at the game’s highest level.”
It’s not common knowledge that both Scott and Day attended the same Kooralbyn International School but with Scott, who is eight years older, in attendance at an earlier time than Day.
But then their paths did not cross until Day began receiving invitations to compete in some of the major Australasian Tour events such as the Australian Masters and the Greg Norman Holden International.
FIRST TIME I HEARD ABOUT JASON DAY & THE KOORALBYN CONNECTION
“The first time I heard about Jason was when he captured the Master of the Amateurs (July 2006 – turned pro after winning the Green Jacket at the Master of the Amateurs) and from there Jason received invitations to compete in the Aussie events before I first met him down at the Aussie Masters,” said Scott.
“He was pretty young about that time around 17 or 18 and even though that seems like a lot time ago, he was a great young player and what we saw on Sunday seemed inevitable.
“It is an incredible path what it takes to get to winning a Major, except perhaps for Jordan who just knid of rolled out and it all happened, but you must understand it’s not quite as easy for foreigners or non-Americans to come over here to the States and feel absolutely comfortable peforming at your best.
“Of course, we weren’t in Kooralbyn at the same time but just being from a similar area we know how each other grew-up, and we know what it was like and probably shared a lot of similar experiences in golf playing a lot of the same golf courses.
“But then it one of those interesting relationships where you have where we are not only good friends but we are competitors and certainly when the majors come around next year I will want to beat him and he will want to beat me.
“It’s been really good like that the last five years or so and we seem to egg each other along quite a lot, so much so that I remember a few years ago we were both among the top-five in the world and if felt good as we were pushing each other to stay inside the top-five, so it was good for both us.”
And as a fellow Major Champion Scott was asked what advice he could offer to Day in dealing with all that goes, both on and off the course, with victory at the game’s highest level.
“Nothing golfwise as Colin and Jason have it under control but it will be interesting how he handles some new demands on his time and handing the pressure and opportunities he will be presented,” said Scott.
“One thing is that he is going to have to prioritise aspects of his life and sort it out but then knowing Jason as I do, he will not want to rest on his laurels and I hope he sees it as just the beginning of an incredible career where he is going to have to keep golf as the main focus, and if so, everything else will fall into place.”