18 May 2023 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Day's patience may pay off at PGA

by Martin Blake

Jason Day PGA image
Jason Day will be a handful for his competitors this week. Photo: Getty

Adam Scott has praised the remarkable patience of Jason Day in returning from the deepest of caverns to resume his rightful place in the top 20 players in the world.

Ahead of this week’s PGA Championship, the season’s second men’s major at Oak Hill Country Club in New York, his fellow-Queenslander Scott is well aware that Day will be among the favourites such is the quality of his golf over the past few months.

“Well, I think the point he's at in his career, it's really all he's trying to do,” said Scott this week. “He's obviously set out and really worked hard on his golf swing the last couple years, and he's stayed incredibly patient, I think, and chipped away at it and got it to a place where he may not say he's not satisfied, but it's looking pretty good.

“The validation of sticking with it, I think, is something at this point that he'll take a lot out of, and when you're as talented as Jason, the sky's the limit, once the confidence comes through winning like that.”

Day and Scott are among the seven Australians looking to win at the storied, old venue this week, with Cameron Smith, Lucas Herbert, Min Woo Lee, Cam Davis and major debutant David Micheluzzi, the reigning Order of Merit champion from the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.

Day, the 2015 winner of the PGA Championship, has not contended in a major since 2020 when he was tied-fourth behind Collin Morikawa at Harding Park in San Francisco.

But with a strong rebuild of his swing under coach Chris Como behind him, and seven top-10 finishes this season highlighted by last weekend’s Byron Nelson victory in Texas, he has every right to sit alongside Open Champion Smith as the top Australian contenders.

Day’s world ranking, which was at 112 at the end of 2022, rose 15 spots to No. 20 after his win last week, topped off with a closing 62.

As for the 42-year-old Scott, he cannot be discounted this week either with T8 and T5 finishes in the past two weeks to suggest strong form.

“The putting is great, and it's all feeling a bit better,” he said after going top-10 in Texas. “Some days the stats don't say it's great, but then the next day my approach play turns around and it's really good, and I hit almost every green today.

"I'll probably look back on Friday and think about what maybe could have been if I'd just been a little tidier out there in the wind. But two good weeks in a row. Going into the PGA, I'm looking forward to next week, and hopefully get a little closer.”

Scott acknowledged his age in nailing his preparation, but he is confident.

“I think you just move a little slower as you're a bit older, but this is the time of year you want to be playing good. Ideally you kind of start playing really great in March, but it's six or eight weeks later and there's still a lot of big golf coming up with the PGA right in front of my mind. You know, if I can keep building on that and put four of those days together, then I think a good thing will happen.”

The other Australians are somewhat more difficult to assess.

Lucas Herbert was having a rough year until he jumped up and won on the DP World Tour in Japan last month, and he is unpredictable. Cam Davis also has gone through some turbulence but would have appreciated his T7 at the RBC Heritage a few weeks ago.

Min Woo Lee has been home in Australia since playing his way into the last group at the Players Championship in March, and appears destined for the PGA TOUR next season on points earned, but he will want to ensure that is the case after spending the past couple of years in Europe.

Victorian Micheluzzi played nicely at the Byron Nelson to pick up a cheque and will enjoy his first taste of major action, even if he is not a contender. The 26-year-old Melburnian also gets a start in the Open Championship later this year as he prepares for a switch to the DP World Tour at the end of 2023 as part of his Order of Merit exemptions.

The PGA Championship begins late Thursday night AEST and is broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports.

Meanwhile Gabi Ruffels has another chance to continue her domination of the Epson Tour in Florida at the IOA Classic this weekend.

The young Australian has won twice on the secondary tour in 2023 which will be sufficient to push her into the group of 10 on the money list who earn LPGA Tour cards for 2024.

After a brilliant amateur career followed by some difficulties in her early pro career, Ruffels is turning into the player everyone expected her to become. Round 1 tee times AEST

PGA TOUR PGA Championship Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York 9pm Shaun Micheel, Braden Shattuck, Steven Alker (NZ) 9.27* Min Woo Lee, Andrew Putnam, Emiliano Grillo 9.33 Tom Hoge, Ryan Fox (NZ), K.H. Lee 10.33* Matt Fitzpatrick, Cameron Smith, Jon Rahm 11.06* Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau 2.30 Matt Cahill, Taylor Montgomery, Cam Davis 3.20* Lucas Herbert, Brian Harman, Callum Shinkwin 3.36* Adam Scott, Max Homa, Tony Finau 4.15* Chris Sanger, JJ Spaun, David Micheluzzi Defending champion: Justin Thomas Past Aussie winners: Jason Day (2015), Steve Elkington (1995), Wayne Grady (1990), David Graham (1979), Jim Ferrier (1947) TV Times: Thursday 11.30pm-9am, Friday 11.30pm-9am, Saturday 11pm-9am, Sunday 11pm-9am Fox Sports and Kayo Sports

Challenge Tour

B-NL Challenge Trophy Twentsche Golf Club, Deldenerbroek, Netherlands

Australasians competing: Maverick Antcliff , Jarryd Felton , Connor McKinney Defending champion: Alexander Knappe Past Aussie winners: nil

Japan Tour

Golf Partner Pro-Am Tournament Toride Kokusai Golf Club, Ibaraki 10am* Brendan Jones, Yosuke Tsukada 10.40 Adam Bland, Yoshitaka Takeya 10.40 Dylan Perry, Shota Akiyoshi 11.20 Brad Kennedy, Eric Sugimoto 11.50* Andrew Evans, Ryunosuke Furukawa, Yuki Mori, Kento Yamawaki Defending champion: Shugo Imahira Past Aussie winners: nil

Epson Tour

IOA Classic Alaqua Country Club, Florida

Australasians competing: Gabriela Ruffels, Robyn Choi , Amelia Garvey (NZ) , Sarah Jane Smith , Hira Naveed , Cassie Porter Defending champion: Grace Kim Past Aussie winners: Grace Kim (2022), Hannah Green (2017)

Korn Ferry Tour

AdventHealth Championship Blue Hills Country Club, Kansas City, Missouri 1.35am* Rhein Gibson, Rico Hoey, Quade Cummins 6.27am Ben Silverman, Brandon Harkins, Brett Drewitt 8.17am* Joseph Winslow, Charlie Hillier (NZ), Davis Cooper Defending champion: Trevor Cone Past Aussie winners: nil

Ladies European Tour

Aramco Team Series Florida Trump International Golf Club, West Palm Beach Australasians competing: Lydia Ko (NZ) , Stephanie Kyriacou , Whitney Hillier , Momoka Kobori (NZ) , Kirsten Rudgeley , Wenyung Keh (NZ) , Hanee Song (NZ), Kristalle Blum Defending champion: Team Whitney Hillier Past Aussie winners: Whitney Hillier (2022)

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