By: Dave Cordero, Director of Communications
Before the PGA TOUR invasion of Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy or 22-year-old Jordan Spieth’s rapid ascendance to stardom, another “can’t miss” amateur from Queensland, Australia quietly declared himself ready for the global golf stage.
His name was Jason Day and the year was 2007. After a sparkling career as an amateur in which he was twice crowned the Australian Junior Order of Merit and became a champion in the United States winning the World Junior Championships (ages 15-17), Day then took his talents to the PGA TOUR.
Although he made the cuts in five of his first six tournaments, Day, like many young golfers, found that playing (and staying) on the PGA TOUR was not an easy task. A failed attempt at Qualifying School landed him on the Nationwide Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour). With his shiny new clubs from equipment sponsor TaylorMade Golf, Day did what he does best: Keep his head down, his priorities straight, and simply outwork the competition.
After finishing high enough on the Nationwide Tour’s Official Money List, Day was once again ready for the “Big Leagues” (hopefully for good) in 2008. Day’s persistence paid off as he became the youngest player to win on any of the PGA TOUR’s three tours when he captured the Legend Financial Group Classic in July 2007 at age 19. Still, Day had proved nothing in the eyes of the golf world. He was merely another good golf prodigy hoping to achieve just a fraction of the success his predeceasing Countrymen and World Golf Hall of Fame Members Walter Travis, Kel Nagle, Peter Thomson, David Graham and Greg Norman enjoyed during their golf careers.
Day worked through two more years of grinding, sub-par finishes and a fair share of missed cuts before he finally broke through and won his maiden PGA TOUR event at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Hoisting that trophy meant Day had become the youngest Australian to win a PGA TOUR event. Maybe, just maybe, Day had put the world on notice that he had earned the right to be called a “rising star.”
Prior to his PGA Championship victory, Day had earned four more PGA TOUR wins, but it was his gutsy performances during Major Championships that netted him the international attention. Most notably, in 2011, Day finished T-2 at the Masters and again a runner-up finish later that year at the U.S. Open. In his six years as a professional, Day has 10 Top-10 finishes including six Top-5’s. One could even say that “he was due.”
Heading into the 97th PGA Championship, the conversation at Whistling Straits was centered on the dominance of Spieth, the comeback of McIlroy and the fall-off of Tiger Woods. Just like his arrival to the United States, Day quietly went about his business and strung together four epic rounds of golf. And as the old adage says, “To be the best, you have to beat the best.” Paired with 2015 Masters and U.S. Open Champion Spieth, Day played flawlessly en route to a Major-record 20-under par.
Tears streamed down Day’s face as the final putt dropped and announcers began to say his name and “Major Champion” in the same sentence. Now ranked No. 3 behind McIlroy (No. 2) and Spieth (No. 1), it is quite possible that the “Big 3” of the modern era is taking shape.
One thing appears certain: Unlike several years ago when Day tasted early success before going back to the proverbial drawing board, he has arrived for good.