Are bigger things finally ahead for charging Day?
February 08, 2015
By Helen Ross and Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- February 08, 2015
- Will Jason Day and wife Ellie Harvey have more big celebrations in store? (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO -- Jason Day knew better. Even so, there were times last year when he was sidelined by that nagging thumb injury and nursing the bulging disk in his back that the young Aussie was consumed by doubt.
"There were times in my head that [I wondered] am I ever going to play the game of golf again?" Day admitted.
The 2013-14 season had begun with so much promise, particularly after Day, a 24-year-old, won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and rose to No. 4 in the world. Then the injury bug struck, and Day spent the better part of three months at home in Ohio with his wife Ellie and their cherubic son Dash instead of building on those gains.
The year was hardly a total loss. Day returned to play in 11 more tournaments and posted top-10s in four, including three of the four FedExCup Playoff events, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the season as a whole was an opportunity missed.
"I've always told you guys that my ultimate goal in my golfing career is to try and get to that No. 1 spot in the world," Day explained. "We have lots of tremendous golfers out there that are very competitive and want to achieve that as well, so to be able to win the Match Play last year, trending in the right direction, I was in a good spot mentally and physically.
"I really honestly felt like I was going to get to No. 1 last year. And with the way I was playing and then obviously with the thumb injury ... it just was bad timing, really bad timing."
On the other hand, Sunday's win at the Farmers Insurance Open came at just the right time. Day was clearly energized by the playoff victory and thrilled to have climbed back to No. 4 in the world ranking.
"I've never been more motivated to play well than right now, this year," Day said. "The other years I was motivated, but ... I really want to kick butt this year."
Day certainly did on Sunday on Torrey Pines' iconic South Course, which was playing tougher than it did on Sunday at the 2008 U.S. Open.
The man from Oz pushed forward Sunday with birdies on the 15th and 16th holes -- and an equally important par save from the bunker at 17 -- just to get into the four-man playoff. Then he showed how much he wanted the title by chipping to inches for birdie on the first extra hole and applying the knockout punch with a 5-iron to 15 feet on the second.
"Back in the day I would have gone, OK, I'm kind of happy with second place," Day said. "And being able to get up and say, no, I'm not happy with second place, I want to win. That's the first step to really moving forward."
Rory McIlroy will undoubtedly make it difficult for Day -- or anyone else -- to move too far forward in the ranking. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't try, and Day, who is a young man with an old soul, understands the value of that commitment.
"You don't get anywhere in life without working hard and dedicating yourself to that profession and really putting in a lot of quality time," Day said. "So, I needed this win. I really wanted this win.
"I visualized myself winning and holding the trophy before this week. I was in Palm Springs thinking about it, just trying to visualize over and over in my head. Obviously I need to go out and play good golf, but that's kind of what I did at the Match Play and that's what I did here this week.
"So obviously that tells me that I need to start doing that a lot more and really wanting to get to that No. 1 spot."
Jason Day prevails in a playoff to win 2015 Farmers Insurance Open
HOWELL III PLEASED DESPITE MISSING PLAYOFF: The wait continues for Charles Howell III, whose second and last victory came 233 starts ago at the 2007 Nissan Open.
That said, Howell couldn't have been displeased by his performance this week at Torrey Pines where he posted his sixth top-10 finish in 13 starts. Howell gave himself a chance at joining the playoff, too, but narrowly missed a 14-footer for birdie on the last hole.
"If you asked me earlier in the week how my game was, I would have said average," he said. "My scoring hasn't been very good over the past, let's call it month. So, I was spending a lot of time this week on my short irons, wedge, putting, etcetera.
"I'll be honest with you, I was really happy to be back in the mix and feel that again. The last time I won a golf tournament feels like two lifetimes ago."
Since that most recent win in Los Angeles eight years ago, Howell has posted 36 top-10 finishes, including four runners-up and five third places. Now 35, he's the first to point to "some gray hairs to show you I'm not young," but the desire still burns bright.
His motivation has changed a little, though. Howell now has his eye on the burgeoning crop of fearless youngsters finding their way onto leaderboards across the country.
"A lot of people of my generation are used to getting our heads bashed in by Tiger, where these guys don't really seem to be afraid of anything and they come out ready to win ala Justin Thomas here and Jordan Spieth and whatnot," Howell said.
"So it motivates people in my age group, for sure. We're balancing a family and kids and all that, but still working hard on your game. Where Tiger used to be the motivating factor, these young kids are now."
ROUND 4 STATISTICAL LEADERS
Category Round 4 leader Statistic Weekly leader Statistic Strokes gained: tee-to-green Martin Laird 4.875 strokes gained Charles Howell III 2.936 strokes gained/round Driving distance Angel Cabrera 324.5 yards Jason Day 308.9 yards Driving accuracy Shane Lowry, Nick Watney 13 of 14 David Toms 45 of 56 Greens in regulation Jim Herman 15 of 18 Jim Herman 57 of 72 Strokes gained: putting Zac Blair 3.460 strokes gained Zac Blair 5.784 strokes gained/round Putts per round Chad Collins, Harris English, Scott Stallings 24 Zac Blair 25.75 Total birdies Michael Thompson 7 M. Thompson, Z. Blair 20
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
God is good all the time & all the time God is good! today wasn't my day to win but really had a great time. On to next week #FarmersInsOpen— J.B. Holmes (@JBHolmesgolf) February 9, 2015
"All I know is we started with the @FarmersInsOpen and we ended with the Farmers Insurance US Open" -Peter Kostis on the challenge of Torrey— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) February 8, 2015
STALLINGS LOOKING FOR MORE AFTER STRONG FINISH: Scott Stallings certainly had a sense of deja vu on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open.
After all, he was lurking three strokes off the pace entering the final round on the South Course -- just as Stallings did a year ago when he came from behind to win his third PGA TOUR title. And history almost repeated itself, but the defending champ was eliminated on the first hole of a four-man playoff.
"It is my first Top-10 on TOUR since I won here last year and definitely look forward to building on to this," Stallings said.
Stallings bogeyed his first hole on Sunday but he played the next 17 in 4 under, including a chip-in eagle at the 13th hole that cemented his spot among the leaders. He had a 26-footer at the 18th hole in regulation to break out of the tie before being eliminated with another par there on the first extra hole.
"I put myself in that position," Stallings said. "That's all you want as a PGA TOUR player. Jason, J.B. made great birdies and I hit my shots coming down the stretch and gave myself chances and didn't capitalize. But at the end of the day I played really well and gave myself a chance to win."
And considering the way his title defense started, Stallings, who said he was "unbelieveably anxious" to get the tournament going, knew he'd come a long way. He drew the easier North Course for his first round and bogeyed three of his first four holes.
"It was nice to come out, especially the way I started ... on Thursday on the North to give myself a chance coming down the stretch on Sunday," Stallings said. "The golf course is super difficult, as everyone knows. You just kind of got to hang around.
"John, my caddie did an awesome job as far as keeping me patient and knew we were going to have a chance with the last few holes coming down and I hit some good shots and just didn't quite make the putts."
Scott Stallings’ beautiful chip-in eagle at Farmers
HOLMES DOESN'T REGRET DECISION TO LAY UP: Tied for the lead and 235 yards from the hole on the par-5 18th, J.B. Holmes decided to lay up instead of go for the green in two.
On the surface it might seem like a curious decision from one of the longest hitters in the game, but missing short, or left, or long was trouble and opened the door for bogey.
“I played them all correctly for me,” Holmes said. “My wedge shot just didn’t really come back.
“I thought about [going for it] but if it would have been five yards shorter or three or four yards longer, it was really on a down slope and it was just a lie that my tendency is to hit it a little bit further and hit a draw. If you hit something over the green there, it’s not really an easy up-and-down. It’s not really the best access to the pin.”
Jason Day found that out when he hit his second off the back of the green, chipped back toward the flag and watched as his ball nearly rolled into the water, stopping just shy of the hazard line.
“The best lay up is to lay up and hit a wedge,” Holmes added. “If I had the same thing again, I would lay up.”
J.B. Holmes’ approach funnels close setting up birdie at Farmers
CALL OF THE DAY: Doug Bell calls Jason Day's par on the second playoff hole to win at Farmers Insurance Open.
ODDS AND ENDS
The four-man playoff was the largest in tournament history, topping three-way playoffs won by Tiger Woods in 2006, Phil Mickelson in 2001 and J.C. Snead in 1975. The last four-man playoff on the PGA TOUR was at least year’s Honda Classic, where Russell Henley beat Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox and Ryan Palmer. … The runner-up finish for three-time PGA TOUR winner J.B. Holmes is the third of his career. The others came at the 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and 2009 Shell Houston Open. …Scott Stallings’runner-up finish this week marked his first top 10 on TOUR since winning the Farmers Insurance Open in 2014. …Charles Howell III tied for fifth with a final-round 68 for his first top 10 of the season. He has had at least one top-10 finish in each of his 16 seasons on TOUR with six of them coming at the Farmers Insurance Open, including runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2007. ...There were no bogey-free rounds Sunday at Torrey Pines, where the par-72 South Course played to a scoring average of 74.054 -- more than a stroke higher than the final round of the 2008 U.S. Open, which played to an average of 72.873.