Day Driven by near-miss at The Open
When Jason Day departed St Andrews last July he was ruing yet another missed opportunity.
As on his previous start, at Chambers Bay in the US Open one month earlier, the Australian had held the joint lead at 54-holes, but failed to convert the win.
His biography showed there were three wins to his name on the PGA TOUR, but he knew the bitter truth: it was no reflection on the quality of his game and, even more pertinently, there were far too many near misses in the major championships for comfort.
Twelve months earlier, profiled by the journalist Shane Ryan in his book Chasing the Legends, Day had admitted asking himself the question: “How do I become so great that I win tournaments?”
The 28-year-old was being brutally honest: he knew he had a problem turning good weeks into wins, he knew other people knew it, and he knew he badly needed a solution.
Nine months on, it’s probably save to say he found it.
Because six days after he left Scotland last summer Day claimed top spot in the Canadian Open and three weeks later he broke his major duck with victory in the PGA Championship.
When he won The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass earlier this month it was his seventh win in 17 starts since his return flight across the Atlantic.
The transformation is startling: labelled a nearly man last July, this run of form is now being compared to Tiger at his very best.
Whatever the missing ingredient was, Day has found it - and he suggested at Sawgrass that his final round at The Open in 2015 was a key component.
“Yeah, it flat out sucks losing, it really doesn‘t feel good,” he admitted after the latest win. “But that week (at The Open), something changed. I think I said to myself, you know, I think you’re finally ready to do this.
“Probably deep down in my sub-conscious, I’m not sure, but the whole week I felt calm, and I played some great golf, and from then on it kind of kicked on and I haven’t stopped.”
Although ultimately thwarted, it was apparent at last year’s Championship that Day is hungry to write history.
“I always wanted to be the first Aussie to win the Masters,” he said, “but you know Adam Scott beat me to it. We haven’t had an Aussie win the Claret Jug since Mr Norman it would be nice to put my name on there. We’re just trying to chase that bit of immortality.”
Narrow failure to achieve that aim has clearly galvanised him since and he’s in no mood to slow down. Asked at Sawgrass if he could pinpoint two or three reasons behind the change in his fortunes he was unequivocal.
“Two or three things?” he repeated. “I don’t think it’s two or three things. I think it’s just one thing and that’s just want. I want it so bad right now. I want to win every single tournament that I’m playing in.”
Sometimes a near-miss is the end of a story.
Other times, as Jason Day now understands, a near-miss is only the start.