So, Jason Day is no longer the best golfer on the planet, as he described himself a week ago after becoming world No 1 in winning the BMW Championship, as he failed to contend in the PGA Tour’s final event of the 2014-15 wraparound season – the Tour Championship – in Atlanta yesterday.
The 27-year-old Day needed to finish in a tie for fifth or better to retain the No 1 spot, but finished in a tie for 10th after dominating in recent times with four wins in six events to claim the lofty perch he’d dreamed of as a kid.
It was Jordan Spieth who won the Tour Championship to regain the No 1 position he’d lost to Day and carry away the spoils of victory – $US1.4 million for winning the tournament and another $US10 million for winning the season-long Fed Ex Cup to bring his season earnings to over $US22 million.
That’s almost obscene cash even in these inflated times for one so young – he IS only 22 – and, by comparison, Greg Norman won $US14.5 in his entire career spanning three decades on the PGA Tour.
Let the psychologists ponder why Day failed to produce the magical stuff of the past few weeks that included his first major victory – the PGA Championship – but it may simply mean he ran out of puff.
Since the world ranking system was introduced in 1986, four players have lost the No 1 spot just a week after gaining it. Two on them – Tom Lehman and Ernie Els in 1997 – never did return to the top while the third – Fred Couples – came back to reign the world for another 15 weeks after his initial one week spell.
Now, the fourth to lose No 1 was a chap by the name of Tiger Woods. On June 16, 1997 Woods, with four wins and two other top five finishes for the year that far, he displaced Greg Norman as No 1 after finishing tied 19th in the US Open, but a week later it was Els who took Woods down a peg for his briefest of brief stints at the top.
Woods, of course, came back to dominate world golf as no other, save for the great Jack Nicklaus, to leave the rest virtually playing for second money.
And, therein lies the comfort for Jason Day. Those who set the odds for all things gambling wouldn’t even give you a quote that the young Queenslander will once again rule golf as world No 1. He is a certainty, but you might get enticing odds about Woods’ chances of ever returning to his former glory.
Right now, it is the 20-somethings who rule golf. We have a new triumvirate of Spieth, Day and 22-year-old Rory McIlroy. Throw in Rickie Fowler (26) as well if you like. Years ago, it was Palmer, Nicklaus and Player and so many years before that the great triumvirate was Vardon, Taylor and Braid.
Far from being despondent, Day reflected on a great year which, like that of Spieth, included five PGA Tour victories.
“It’s been a good year. To be able to win a major championship, the PGA Championship, and then also get to No 1 has been a life-long dream of mine. So it’s been a good positive year,” Day said told reporters in Atlanta.
“Now that it’s over, I’m looking forward to getting some rest. Really trying to take care of my body off-season for next year. And, a lot more motivated, a lot more hungry to stay on top of the world.”
His four wins in six starts in recent times has only ever been achieved by three other players since 1970 _ Tom Weiskopf in 1973, Nick Price in 1994 and, of course, Woods who did it six times.
As much as Woods’ admirers would argue differently, he will never again dominate as he did. He’s had numerous surgeries to repair his body (he’s currently recuperating from yet more back surgery to prepare for 2016) but that number apparently doesn’t come close to the tally of cocktail waitresses and porn stars he keep company with before his personal life came tumbling down.
Some of Woods’ colleagues on tour may still respect him, some are pleased to call him their friend, as Day does, but collectively they no longer fear him. The intimidation factor is no more.
The pity with Jason is that we haven’t seen enough of him here in Australia. He is immediately recogniseable because of the deeds we’ve seen on television but, truth is, since he first played a major tournament at home – the 2004 Australian Open as an amateur – he has played just 14 times in just four separate years.
I’ve written before it would be a crying shame if he becomes so Americanised that he divorces himself from the country of his birth like Bruce Crampton did in the1960s before returning filled with regret that he’d turned his back on Australia for so long.
Sure there has been various injuries and illnesses at the time of our major tournaments, and also the birth of his three-year-old son Dash. This year, he will remain in the States once again but for the very valid reason that his American wife Ellie is expecting their second child.
Our two world No 1 golfers before Day were Greg Norman and Adam Scott. Norman always supported his home tour, with the added enticement of massive appearances fees, while Adam Scott still returns every year. He and Spieth will headline this year’s Australian Open at The Australian GC in Sydney in November.
But, until we see him in the flesh again in Australia, we will continue to applaud his deeds from afar. His dream is now a reality and we’ll go along for the ride with him.