THERE are a lot of story lines as we settle back for the year’s final major … can Rory McIlroy bounce back from injury? Will Jordan Spieth win his third major of the year? Just how many bunkers are there at Whistling Straits? But we’ve been staring into the golfing crystal ball repeatedly and we’re still only coming up with one answer: Jason Day.
That might a big call, and very patriotically influenced, but who is going to argue with a crystal golf ball?
Day always seems to shine in the big events – in his 20 major starts he has had nine top tens, including three runner-ups, a third and two fourths. That figure is perhaps a little worse because it took him a while to come to terms with links style courses – which would mostly include Whistling Straits. Day’s fourth at the British Open last month shows how far he has come.
Now the 27 year old Aussie is back where it all began five years ago.
In the 2010 US PGA Championship Day, making his major debut, was just one shot off the lead with 10 holes to play.
He double bogeyed the ninth hole and faded to finish tied for tenth, but the learning had surely begun. Certainly, there have been a number of majors since when the last handful of holes have kept him from the main prize.
“I remember having a chance five years ago,” said Day on Tuesday, back at the same venue and tournament.
“I was a nervous wreck back then and, while I still have nerves at majors, I know what to expect and how to treat them.
“I feel like my game has evolved in a way that has me almost ready for any situation.
“Whatever gets thrown at me this week I am going to take it on the chin and keep pushing forward and hope that has me in the mix at the end of the week.”
Eight other Aussies line up for the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, the Pete Dye designed course on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
They include Adam Scott, who will definitely be playing his last major with an anchored long putter (the practice is banned come the new year), Marc Leishman, John Senden, Matt Jones, Steve Bowditch, rookie pro Cameron Smith who made such as splash at the US Open [See: Cameron Smith’s Dream Year Continues], Geoff Ogilvy and Matt’s brother Brett Jones, making his major debut after qualifying through the club pros’ championship in the US.
Day, now world No.5, will play the first two rounds with two other golfers who have come close enough to sniff a major trophy (but not take it home) in Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. (Johnson will no doubt be pleased by the fact they have built a grandstand over the “bunker that wasn’t” that caused him a two stroke penalty in 2010.)
Adam Scott will play with two other good chances in Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka.
Rory McIlroy will play alongside new arch nemeses Jordan Spieth (who would become just the third player to win three majors in a year and take over the world No.1 spot as long as the Northern Irishman doesn’t finish outright second) and British Open winner Zach Johnson.
Bubba Watson is favoured by many and lines up alongside Jim Furyk and Paul Casey, while Tiger Woods will share his trials and tribulations with 2010 champion Martin Kaymer and 2011 winner Keegan Bradley.
[box]How many bunkers are there at Whistling Straits? They say “approximately” 960 because Pete Dye never kept count and the groundstaff reckon they lose interest in keeping a tally long before they reach the back nine.[/box]
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