Jason Day Captures the Wells Fargo Championship, Sets His Sights on a Return to No. 1

By JONATHAN JONES  (Sports Illustrated) May 06, 2018

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jason Day isn’t afraid to tell you he was afraid. He was battling
demons in his head with about five holes left to play at the Wells Fargo Championship
and his confidence was dwindling. Coming off back-to-back bogeys to be in a tie with Aaron Wise at 10 under par heading into the final three holes of the tournament, Day knew this was a critical characterbuilding
moment in his pursuit to reclaim his world No. 1 ranking.

“You’re your own worst enemy out there, especially today,” Day said. “I had my best
mate on the bag (caddy Luke Reardon), I was sitting there thinking it’s happening
again … I’m sitting there thinking Aaron’s going to win the tournament and I’m going
to walk off failing.

“The moments when you win and you don’t have your greatest stuff is the moment
when you learn the most. I learned a lot about myself but I learned more about how
much I actually wanted to get back to No. 1.”

Day won his 12 PGA Tour event of his career and second of the season Sunday at
Quail Hollow Club, beating the field by two strokes at 12 under par and heading into
next week’s Players Championship driving as well as he did when he was the best
golfer in the world and possibly putting even better.

Day hooked his drive on the par-4 14 into the water following a bogey on 13. He had
been scrambling most of the day but was buoyed by his short game, and the
tournament felt like it was slipping away from Day and into the hands of a relative
unknown.That’s when he turned it on. He had just three putts on the final three holes—with a
touch of luck. He birdied 16 by sinking a 10-footer and survived a scare at the 230-
yard par-3 17 . Day’s ball hummed toward the flagstick, and possibly into the same
water he found on 14, before hitting the stick and coming to rest 3 feet away for an
easy birdie.Quail Hollow’s 18 hole has stolen plenty of players’ chances here over the years,
including Day. But he had already exorcised those demons this weekend.

Last year, in pursuit of his second PGA Championship, Day made quadruple bogey at
the 18 to close out his third round and kill any hope of another major victory. But
Day hit a nice drive to a four-iron on Thursday to two-putt for par to shake out any
jitters. Then on Saturday, his 343-yard drive tailed left near the creek. He rolled up his
pants, played the ball above his feet on the embankment and eventually made par.
Day played 18 extremely safe with his two-shot lead. From a safe tee shot, he threw
his approach into the rough on the right to avoid the creek, chipped on and made his
seven-footer for the comfortable win.

Now he’s back in the top 10, but that’s not what he’s after. Day hasn’t been the world’s
top-ranked golfer since February 2017. Since then he’s slipped to 14 in the world
after dealing with back issues that haven’t resurfaced this year. Last November, he
blew a 54-hole lead at the Australian Open when he shot two over par on Sunday in
his homeland.

But things have started clicking for Day this season. He won the Farmers Insurance
Open in a playoff in January to capture his first Tour win since the 2016 Players
Championship. He rolled into Charlotte having made every putt this season inside of
five feet, and he leaves with that streak intact.

“I mean, I feel like it’s on the end of my tips, it’s right on the end of the tip,” Day said
this weekend describing how close he is to his No. 1 form. “I’m driving it better than I
ever have before in my career. I’m No. 1 in putting and my short game’s coming back
nicely.”

Tiger Woods opined on what it’s like to be at the top and figure out what’s next. Day
has a wife and two children—a third on the way—and Woods said life for Day is much
different than the 20-somethings dominating the tour today with time restraints and
sleep schedules.

“That’s one of the things that I think that he should take a lot away from it, is that he
did it under obviously different conditions, different times in his life, and now that
he’s got a taste of it, he wants it back again. That’s cool to see,” Woods said. “He’s
willing to get his hands dirty again and do all the legwork off the golf course away
from tournaments that it takes, the hours upon hours of countless practice that we
have to log in, he’s willing to do that again.”

Woods sent a text to Day Saturday night as the Australian held a two-stroke lead. “Get
this thing done,” Woods wrote to him.

Day admits to being burned out from being No. 1, a post he held the last time for 46 weeks. The time commitments were draining and he was ready to be done with it. But
at the turn of the year he decided to rededicate himself to golf and to being the topranked
player. He’s doing his exercises each morning religiously so his back and
shoulder don’t hurt. He’s logging 10-hour practice days followed by a trip to the gym.
That formula has gotten him two wins and a second-place finish in his past six events.
Now he’s consumed by the idea of overtaking Dustin Johnson atop the golf world. Day
wants to look around the room and know he’s the best. This is what he’s yearning for.
Again. Finally.

“When you’re walking around and there are so many golfers in this world and you
know that there’s no one better than you, that’s a pretty awesome feeling,” Day said.
“And I know the feeling and what it felt like to be No. 1. And I knew what I had to do
to get there. This is a good kick in the right direction.”

 
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