Australian golfer Jason Day knows all about how great this gig can be. Lately, he’s learned to ride out the lows.
Day, formerly No. 1 in the world, is now seventh in the rankings, six spots behind leader Dustin Johnson. Being seventh is still tremendous, but life has been rough at times lately, particularly with his mother, Dening Day, fighting lung cancer.
Day was a popular No. 1 partly because he was so giving with his time to fans and media. He’s still a fine interview -- savvy and eclectic, with a sometimes-goofy sense of humor -- but he’s learning to compartmentalize his public obligations.
For instance, he didn’t arrive in Charlotte for this week’s PGA Championship until Tuesday night. In the past, he might have arrived at the site of a major as early as Friday.
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He instead practiced in Ohio, where he and his family live, to cut down distractions.
“I still want to be accessible with regards to media and everyone else, like fans,” Day said at a Wednesday morning news conference. “But I think I’d probably spend a little bit more time at home. I may arrive to a tournament a little bit later than expected.”
Everything that comes with being the world’s top player was somewhat draining, it appears, and Day has had to reset his priorities.
“I got a little bit burned out. I was trying to do too many things, and my mind got a little bit away from what really made me,” Day said. “I (previously) just solely focused on playing golf.”
Day had an approach back then, around 2015, he is still trying to recapture.
“Trying to get back to the way I felt, how sharp I was on the golf course, how sharp I was off the golf course,” Day said. “How motivated and disciplined I was off the golf course.”
There’s been a lot of chatter this week about caddies, and what a player looks for in one - the balance between technical skill and personal relationship.
Dustin Johnson’s solution was to install his younger brother, Austin, as his caddie in 2016. Austin famously jumped into a pond at TPC Sawgrass to retrieve a ball. It avoided Dustin being assessed a penalty for not replacing the same ball he picked up after marking a spot.
“Having my brother on the bag is big for me. He’s my best friend,” Johnson said, adding part of a caddie’s job is to “give you confidence in what you’re doing, whether he agrees with you or not.”
As for the technical stuff -- distances, club selection, etc. -- Johnson said his brother is improving, but that’s only so important, anyway.
“Usually the days that I’m having to rely on him,” Johnson said, “it’s not a good day.”
▪ Jordan Speith ate at SouthPark restaurant Cowfish, with a menu of both sushi and burgers: “It was really good. But I had no idea how to feel going in, with the menu.”
▪ Jason Kokrak, who lives in Charlotte, won the long-drive competition Tuesday. Due to the rainy conditions, the pros didn’t get much roll on the Par 5 10th hole. Kokrak’s winning drive measured just about 321 yards.
▪ If there’s a tie among two or more players at the completion of 72 holes Sunday, the PGA Championship will go to a three-hole aggregate playoff (total score) for holes 16, 17 and 18.
▪ The PGA Championship last needed a playoff to decide a winner in 2011, when Keegan Bradley beat Jason Dufner.
▪ Defending PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker is a space buff, and his hobby is astrophotography. Walker gave telescopes to each of the other former winners at the champions dinner this week.
▪ Temperatures this week have been as mild as one could hope for in Charlotte in August, but Saturday and Sunday could be back in the 90s.
▪ PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua gave a shout-out to Justin Bieber and Stephen Curry for their interest in golf. Translation: “Millenials, golf is cool!”
▪ By the way, PGA policy for this event says a player has the discretion to bring a coach, a manager or a friend/celebrity inside the ropes during practice rounds.
By the numbers
1 Number of inches of rain that fell on the course in 48 hours, which softened the greens more than the PGA intended.
18 Number of previous PGA Championships Sergio Garcia has played.
97 Number of top 100 players who have entered this tournament.
They said it
“We’re not going to start talking about the wedding and everything that went on.” – Sergio Garcia, when asked why he had Kenny G perform at his wedding reception.
“They stop where they land. So I’m hitting it 290 (yards) instead of getting the roll-out to 310.” – Jordan Speith in drives here, on fairways softened by rain.
“He’s very quiet. Obviously, the language barrier is tough..” – Jason Day on Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama.
“I couldn’t hit a home run to save my life and I was a sucker for the curveball.” – Brooks Koepka on giving up baseball to pursue golf.
Thursday’s forecast: A high of 83 degrees with a 40 percent chance of rain (showers scattered in the afternoon with a possible thunderstorm). Winds 5 to 10 mph.