JASON DAY kept his wife Ellie in the dark, but there were times over the last five years when the former world No. 1 actually considered giving up the game.
He had a chronically bad back, which is a nightmare for a golfer. Bouts with vertigo, too. His mother’s protracted battle with lung cancer that ended in her death last year took a huge emotional toll, as well.
“To be honest, I was very close to calling it quits,” Day said. “I never told my wife that, but I was okay with it, just because it was a very stressful part of my life.”
But five top-10 finishes in his first seven starts this year showed that the work he’d done with Chris Como to rebuild his swing was paying dividends. And then on Mother’s Day – Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it any better – Day broke a five-year victory drought at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
The victory was the 13th of the 35-year-old Australian’s career and his second in Dallas. He shot four rounds in the 60s, including a closing 62, to post his lowest 72-hole score at 23 under.
Day, who only made three bogeys at TPC Craig Ranch, a career low in victory, trailed by two entering the final round. But he said he felt a calmness all week long, even though he had missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship in his previous start.
“For some reason, I just thought that I was going to win the tournament,” Day said.
“It’s weird because when you’re playing golf and you’re in the hunt or around the lead, sometimes there’s moments in your round that you think, oh, it’s kind of not my time.
“I really never had that thought at all this week, even in the last round,” added the Aussie, who won five times in 2015.
“There’s a few subtle things that I have to change technically to feel like I can actually come out and dominate and play very consistent golf like the likes of (Jon) Rahm and Scottie Scheffler that’s playing some tremendous golf and obviously Rory (McIlroy), as well.”
Brooks Koepka gets No. 5
Anyone who didn’t see this coming wasn’t looking very hard. A month after tying for second at the Masters, Brooks Koepka won his third PGA Championship – and the fifth major of his career.
Koepka, who is the 20th player with five or more majors on his resume, said that runner-up finish at Augusta National, where he closed with a 75 and lost by four was instrumental in the PGA win.
“I’ve always learned more from the four times I finished second than, I guess, the five times I’ve won now,” Koepka said. “I think failure is how you learn. You get better from it. You realize what mistakes you’ve made. Each time I’ve kind of made an adjustment.
“It’s more mentality than it is anything. It’s not really golf swing or anything like that. You’re going to play how you play, but mentally you can kind of figure things out, and I’m always trying to get better. Just trying to find that different little edge just to poke and try inside my head.”
Koepka, who has a total of nine PGA TOUR wins, shot three rounds of 67 or better at Oak Hill, giving him a total of 27, which is the most of any player in the majors since 2012.
Wyndham Clark breaks through
Talk about getting hot at the right time. That’s exactly what Wyndham Clark did at the Wells Fargo Championship – and he was rewarded with the first win of his PGA TOUR career.
Clark had posted top-six finishes in three of his five starts before the TOUR’s Designated Event at Quail Hollow. The four-stroke victory over Xander Schauffele made Clark the eighth first-time winner of the season and moved a player who had never finished higher than 62nd in the FedExCup to a lofty fifth.
“I’ve dreamt about this since I was probably 6 years old,” Clark said. “Since I’ve been on the PGA TOUR, you fantasize about it all the time, and I’ve done it multiple times this year where I catch myself daydreaming about winning, and to do it at this golf course against this competition is better than I could ever have imagined.”
Clark’s ball-striking at the course that hosted last year’s Presidents Cup was superb. He hit 80.6 percent of his greens in regulation and finished +8.20 in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green – both statistics career highs.
Grillo ends another drought in Texas
Just like Day did in Dallas, Emiliano Grillo got back into the winner’s circle after a long absence at the Charles Schwab Challenge in nearby Fort Worth. For the 30-year-old from Argentina, his playoff victory was his first win in 7 years, 7 months and 10 days.
Grillo, who trailed by four entering the final round, was in control of the tournament when he came to the 72nd hole. But a water-logged double bogey eventually left him in a playoff with Adam Schenk that Grillo won on the second extra hole.
While Grillo, who became a dad 14 months ago, waited on the first tee for Schenk to finish, he invited two kids to hit balls. He remembered Joe Coceres doing the same for him when he was a similar age.
“That was the greatest experience of all, just watching him and hitting his clubs,” Grillo said. “I kind of got to do it with them, and hopefully they’ll remember that. It’s also something that it helped to get my mind off the situation. I just made a double. I basically gave the tournament away, and it wasn’t up to me.”
“It was a moment that I needed to get my head out of that.” – PGA Tour