15 May 2023 | Professional golf |

Day breaks 5-year drought

by Tony Webeck

Jason Day_2023 AT&T Nelson_image

A week after leaving the site of his last PGA TOUR win with his tail between his legs, Jason Day found any number of synergies within his one-stroke victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas.

Thirteen years ago, the Byron Nelson was then 22-year-old Day’s first win on the PGA TOUR. His most recent, that was achieved with a closing round of nine-under 62, is his 13th.

A year after the emotional passing of his mother, Day won with Dening’s name on the caddie bib worn by Luke Reardon.

On Mother’s Day.

Wife Ellie, so pivotal in convincing her husband that he had a career to resurrect when back injuries the 2015 US PGA champion and former world No.1 doubt it himself, was waiting greenside with their four children, pregnant with their fifth on the way.

Everywhere you looked there were signs that Day’s stint in the winner’s wilderness would end, but it wasn’t until consecutive birdies on 14 and 15 that he began to think it was possible.

“I wasn’t really thinking about winning,” Day conceded.

“I was actually quite frustrated with how last week ended up. I was getting way too technical with my swing and I lost a lot of focus on the actual target.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I had a chance to win until I birdied 14 and 15.

“That was the only time because I just knew there were too many opportunities for guys to come in and steal the win away from me.

“Even though I gained the lead on 12, I knew that 14 and 15 were crucial. Had the lead with three holes to go and to be able to birdie the 18th hole with a wedge in my hand was good too.”

As the stars were aligning around him, Day tried to stay present in the moment.

He was two shots back when he teed off but as he reached the first green was reminded of the significance of what a win might represent.

“It didn’t hit me until I looked at my caddie and he had his back to me on the first green, and I’m like,

Oh, that’s my mum’s name,” Day said of having his mum’s name on Luke Reardon’s caddie bib.

“They asked at the start of the week if you wanted to put down a certain name, and my mum’s name was it, and that’s when it kind of hit me was on the first green today.

“I guess when you get in the heat of the battle and you’re trying to win a tournament, especially for me over the last five years, I haven’t won one, you kind of quickly just go, OK, I’ve got to compartmentalise my priorities here and focus on trying to win this golf tournament.”

In the 1,835 days since Day won the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, the Day clan has grown by two with a fifth imminent.

As the enormity of the moment sunk in when Austin Eckroat’s eagle chip slid by the hole, Day turned to kiss his four kids and wife to make it a win to remember.

“It’s been over five years since I’ve won and our family has expanded and grown to four kids and we’ve got another one on the way,” Day said.

“It’s that much more special to be able to have the family with me.

“For Ellie to see me win on Mother’s Day, to have my mum’s name on my caddie bib, it’s a very, very special win that I will remember for a very long time.

“Just to know that what myself and what my mum went through, to experience what she went through, to have her name on my caddie bib and to remember that, that’s special.”

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