Tiger & Jason: the comparisons are inevitable
That was the word that Adam Scott used to describe countryman Jason Day’s current run following the Aussie’s most recent win at The Players Championship on Sunday night.
Although comparisons to Tiger Woods get thrown around a lot these days, the 2013 Masters champion might actually be onto something here …
Day’s 4-stroke victory was his seventh in his last 17 starts, dating back to the RBC Canadian Open in July — no other player on the circuit has recorded more than two wins in that same period of time. Incredibly, it was the second time this season that the 28-year-old has won wire-to-wire at a tournament and the first time that it has occurred at TPC Sawgrass in 16 years! As a result, Day now joins the exclusive club of Tiger, Tom Watson, and Johnny Miller as the only players to win wire-to-wire twice in one season on the PGA Tour since 1970.
Moreover, Day has finished an astounding T12 or better in 16 of his last 19 starts and has only missed one cut since last year’s US Open! That is simply remarkable.
During that stretch, Day has been dominating the field with the exact same formula that Tiger used for nearly a decade: booming, accurate drives and short game wizardry on and around the greens.
Day is not one of the physically largest players on the circuit, but he is still one of the tour’s longest hitters nonetheless (24th in driving distance). Like Tiger, the Aussie not only creates enormous club head speed from lashing at the golf ball, but he also seems to have a secret extra gear when the situation calls for it.
He’s even more Tiger-like on the putting surface. When Eldrick was playing his best golf, he never missed short putts. Between 2002-2005, Woods only missed 3 of 1,540 putts from 3 feet and in. Day, too, has been automatic from short range in 2016, having drained all of his putts from inside of four feet heading into The Players. Ranked second in strokes gained putting, the Aussie is no slouch from longer distances either, ranking 11th in putts from 10-15 feet, 14th in putts from 20-25 feet and 15th overall in putts outside of 25 feet.
When his driver and putter are working in unison, the rest of the field really seems to have no chance.
Just look at these comments from World No. 2 Jordan Spieth about what it was like to play with Day while the Aussie shredded TPC Sawgrass with an opening round 9-under 63:
“It’s tough when you’re getting shellacked by 15 shots in the same group, you know?” Spieth told reporters after the round. “When someone is birdying almost every single hole, every other hole, you start to wonder why in the world you aren’t making any of them.”
In fact, Day scorched so much earth over his first two rounds at The Players Championship that he broke a 36-hole scoring record that had been in place at the event since 1994. Day’s 15-under after two rounds might have even inspired a certain Day-proofing of the greens for the weekend that saw the putting surfaces quicken up to Speedy Gonzalez velocities, although PGA Tour VP of Rules and Competition Mark Russell adamantly denied the conspiracy following the conclusion of the event.
However, what was most Tiger-like about Day’s victory this past weekend was the manner in which he sucked all of the drama out of a Sunday afternoon at The Players while closing out his 54-hole lead. This latest victory marks the fifth consecutive 54-hole lead that the Aussie has successfully closed out.
Apparently, Day has been picking the former World No. 1’s brain about finishing off 54-hole leads, amongst other things.
“To be able to talk to him and really have him text me and say, you know, you need to stay in your world and just focus on just getting it done and don’t think about anything else other than just hitting the shot,” Day said following the win on Sunday. “All 18 holes are important, not just 16, 17 and 18. It’s a pretty good piece of advice, especially coming from a guy that has dominated the game for a very long time.”
Clearly, Woods’ advice has been paying off.
With the win, Day now has a stronghold on the World No. 1 ranking and it is not likely that he will lose it anytime soon, considering Spieth’s current lack of confidence and Rory McIlroy’s mediocre play on the PGA Tour this season. There may be a new Big Three on the PGA Tour, but over the last 10 months, it has really become more of a one-man show.
J-Day has been on fire for the better part of a calendar year and I wouldn’t expect him to come back down to earth anytime soon. Like Tiger, the Aussie seems to possess than inner fire that never allows him to be satisfied with his success, no matter how well he is playing. There is no doubt that he will remain motivated going forwards, especially with three majors and an Olympic gold medal up for grabs over the next few months.
“I look at that 10 PGA Tour wins and I say to myself, that’s not enough, and it isn’t enough for me.” Day said in his post-round presser. “ … I want to be looked back on as one of the greats of the game and if I have the opportunity to do that, I’m going to try my best.”
Strong words. The field might want to get used to playing for second place!