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Jason Day - rekindling the desire

Day and Williams in action together this week (Photo: Getty Images)
Jason Day heads into this week’s US Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California looking to convert an already good record at both the US Open and the venue into victory.

Day began his US Open career with a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy at Congressional Country Club in Washington DC in 2011 and in the seven starts in the event since he has been four times inside the top ten.

He also enjoys a very good record at the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, two rounds of which are played at Pebble Beach so there is a certain level of synergy when assessing Day’s chances in 2019.

In his press conference ahead of Thursday’s start, however, Day was quick to point out that Pebble Beach in June is a very different animal to that being played this week.

“It's a totally different beast,” said Day referring to the different dates when asked what it is about the course that suits his game. “We're playing with amateurs in Feb, and the greens are a lot slower, you can be more aggressive.

“Granted, there are a lot more footprints because there's a lot of foot traffic around the hole, but everything kind of stops on a dime. Drives to irons into the greens. It's going to be a lot more difficult this week, only just due to the fact that the greens are very small. And if -- depending on how they set the greens up with regards to the firmness, that will dictate a lot of what the scores are going to yield.

“I think they've done a great job with the width of the fairways on some of the holes. They tightened 8 up, they tightened 11 up, and I think 16 as well -- sorry, 15. So there is -- I think they've done a phenomenal job there. The course conditions itself is very healthy. The rough is healthy. But I've had good success here in Feb, but we do play some other golf courses, as well.”

Day did not play the US Open at Pebble Beach the last time the event was played there in 2010 as in fact at that point in his career he had yet to play any of the majors. That would come a month later at the Open Championship at St Andrews.

“This is a very, very different golf course, especially at a U.S. Open venue. I'm excited to see how the scores go. I don't think it's going to be too low. I think if they have conditions like this, it will be kind of low, under par, maybe, to win.”

There has already been a lot of discussion about the decision by Day to enlist the services of New Zealander Steve Williams, the winningest caddie in the history of the game, this week and the question ‘why’ was one of the first asked today.

“It's funny, because I was giving him (Williams) a little bit on the range because everyone that came up to us on the range at the start, was like Andy North and Jeff Sluman and all these guys that are like kind of the older guys, and I said, It's really showing your age. Because he here was in '92, and he was here in 2000. And obviously he's here again.

“So it's nice to have someone with experience, that has unbelievable experience in major championships, and also, on top of it, have the experience of that winning pedigree with regards to the players that he's been with.

“I mean you just have to look at the players that he's with, and it just kind of almost, to a certain degree, puts your mind at ease knowing that he knows what he's doing.

"He's very old school. If you take a young guy these guys, we work a lot with ups and downs, and he is very much sort of a feel guy.

“So there's a little bit of communication that obviously needs to be done. But he's got an amazing history around a golf course like this. And he's been doing it for a very, very long time. He's very positive. I feel like ever since I put him on the -- he started on the bag, I've worked a lot harder. And that's what I want to see.”

So based on what Day is saying this will be a long-term relationship.

“But, also, on top of it, I'm here to try and win. But I know that, how we're going to work together, will slowly evolve over time, and we'll become a lot more efficient.

“And I know that if I have someone on the bag like Steve, I think in certain situations, when it comes down to the crunch, especially either Sundays or even Saturdays, or even Thursdays or Fridays, depending on the certain situation, he'll be able to calm me down.

"Just the experience has - I think he's won like 15 majors or something like that and 150 events. That's a lot of tournament wins and a lot of experience under the belt.”

Day was asked if the decision to put Williams on the bag was an acknowledgment that perhaps he had underachieved to some extent, given the number of near misses he has recorded in major championships and yet only had one under his belt.

“Underachieved, yeah. Severely underachieved, I think. And granted, I have to work on a few things, mentally and physically, with regards to my golf game. But I think I've underachieved up until now.

“I feel like I've got a game that when it's on, I can win most tournaments. And the big thing for me is to go ahead and believe that and have trust in my abilities that I can do that. And now that I have Steve on the bag, I think hopefully that will flourish and I can make winning more of a habit.

“I know that I can do it. All you have to do is look at 2015, 2016, even last year, not just have a single season win. I know that I can have multiple wins in one year and I can get things going.

“So I just have to get that desire back into my game and keep working hard. I think as long as I keep doing that, then having Steve on the bag is going to be the right choice."

It was no doubt a tough decision for Day to have let his good friend and caddy over the past two years or so, Luke Reardon, go but that he was prepared to do so in the interests of advancing his career suggests he is not satisfied with just one major to his name. 

Interestingly it was at Jason day’s first US Open at Congressional in 2011 that Williams first caddied for Adam Scott there and although Scott would miss the cut that week the impact Williams would eventually go on to have on Scott’s major career was significant.

Prior to Williams joining Scott there had been just five top ten finishes in 40 major championship attempts fpr the Queenslander. In the time Williams was with Scott and adding a considerably greater drive and a more efficient approach to his game he would record 11 top tens in 27 starts.

Steve Williams during his time with Adam Scott

One key issue that Steve Williams ensured Scott was doing from the opening bell of a tournament was to have him focused on the job very early on and Day said it was something that he and Williams had talked about already.

"You come out and bogey the first hole and lose by one, that bogey on the first hole could have been more important than any other shot that you've obviously produced during those four days.

"I've always heard that, but I've never really thought about it too much. I know that his drive and his will to be successful is very, very high. And I think he's kind of a no BS kind of guy. He'll tell you straight. He told me that, If you're not working hard enough, I'm gone."

This writer has always been of the belief that Day has the game and self-belief to potentially win many majors and perhaps challenge the likes of Peter Thompson, Karrie Webb and Greg Norman as Australia’s greatest ever player. Decision has kept him from being a lot closer to them than he is at this stage.

The decision he has made this week might go some way to advancing his cause in that regard but clearly he is a player good enough to have more than just one major championship to his name.

"I think the ultimate goal is to win all four majors," added Day. "That would be the kicker, there, I think. If you can -- there's only a handful of guys that have done that. And I think that's a good, lofty goal that you can try and achieve.

"And you've got to make the goals lofty enough, but I think with my game, I feel like I've got the potential to earn those. So hopefully I keep my head down and I keep going."

Time will tell - either way.   



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