Former world number one Jason Day has a burning ambition to get back to the top of the rankings and he made a huge leap with a two-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina on Sunday.
Day had an awful day of wayward driving and squandered a three-shot lead on the back nine with consecutive bogeys, before rising to the occasion and hitting one of the best clutch shots of his life.
After a birdie at the par-four 16th, he took aim at the par-three 17th with a seven-iron from 230 yards and launched his ball 142 feet, as high as a 14-storey building, into the air.
It landed some 40 feet short of the pin and finally clattered against the bottom of the flagstick on the fifth bounce.
Day was unlucky not to make a hole-in-one, but the stick also saved his ball from rolling off the back of the green.
“When I hit it, it was on a cracking line, it was beautiful,” the Australian told reporters after securing his 12th PGA Tour victory.
“And then it just had this massive bounce, hit on the downslope and fortunately hit the pin, which was nice, and went to about two or three feet.
“Things like that is what you need to win golf tournaments.”
— Wells Fargo Golf (@WellsFargoGolf) May 7, 2018
The ensuing birdie restored Day’s two-shot lead and he parred the last to shoot 68 and finish at 12-under 272, two strokes ahead of Americans Aaron Wise (68) and Nick Watney (69) at Quail Hollow in Charlotte.
Day rated the victory one of the best of his career, not because of the quality of his play but more due to his ability to get the job done without his best game.
“I was fighting demons out there because when you’re not hitting it good, it just feels like the life is getting sucked out of you,” he said.
“I had no idea where the ball was going today. I had no confidence in my ability to hit proper tee shots. I was just trying to keep it inside the tree line.
“My short game stood the test, which is nice.
“This is probably one of the best wins I’ve ever had, just because of how hard everything was today.”
It is only two years since Day dominated the game, but he lost his way a bit last year.
A win at Torrey Pines in January showed that he was back in business, and his Quail Hollow victory is projected to elevate him to seventh in the world rankings.
“I got burnt out being number one,” said the 30-year-old.
“You’ve got to give a lot of time to a lot of people and sometimes you don’t get a lot of time to yourself.
“Last year was a good kick in the butt, not playing great and then seeing a lot of the other guys succeed.
“So I really kind of re-dedicated myself to getting back to number one.
“This is a good kick in the right direction having two wins this kind of early in the season. My next step is to try to win a major this year.”
How do you become world-class at something? Do you find yourself building a career as a soloist? Have you faced adversity and don’t know how to move past it? Struggle to find time to improve your physical or mental fitness? Want to know the role of love in your career?
If you’re curious about or relate to any of these ideas, come along with me as we talk to golf legend Gary Player, aka “The Black Knight”.
Admittedly, I’m not a golf fan, but I am a fan of hard work, dedication, mastery, and the unexpected lessons we can translate from one arena to another.
So, I sat down with Gary Player to see what we can learn from his success.
— Darrah Brustein (@DarrahB) April 29, 2018
Golf is an inherently individual sport. What’s your advice for anyone in a career where their success weighs heavily on their independent performance?
Success begins with what’s inside a person. How badly do they want it? How hard are they prepared to work? Golf is no doubt a very lonely game. And the same can be said for a number of other sports, as well as business. In the end, you can’t rely on others too much. Sure, you may need help along the way, whether it’s advice or encouragement. But in the end, success falls mostly on the individual.
Of course, there will be “naysayers” who try to put you down. Really, it’s up to the individual to rise above and overcome any adversity that stands between him and success.
Please share about one professional relationship you’ve had where the outcomes of your efforts together were multiplied exponentially beyond your ability to do so alone. What did you learn from that?
My first manager, and the man who basically invented sports management through IMG – Mark McCormack – was instrumental to my success on and off the golf course. He was a visionary, who saw that sports figures should be able to capitalize on their persona through endorsements and being a spokesperson for companies and other brands.
All of our talent is on loan. I’ve seen so many golfers over the years who woke up one day and could not even make a cut anymore. So, Mark taught me how important it is to capitalize on your success in the moment. Don’t wait around for tomorrow. Get your deal done. And here I am in my 83rd year, still representing global companies like Rolex, SAP and Berenber, and building my own brand along the way.
You’ve talked about how success is 10% preparation and 90% mental fortitude. How does one defeat her own insecurities and increase his or her mental fitness?
For me, it was overcoming adversity at an early age. My mother died of cancer when I was young. At the same time, my brother went to war, my sister was at boarding school, and I seldom saw my father as he was working his tail off 8000 feet underground in the gold mines.
But that made me stronger. I taught myself to be independent. I worked hard on my golf game, but even harder on my mind. I remember being in my hotel room, looking in the mirror, slapping myself and repeatedly saying ‘You are a champion!’, ‘Have guts!’, ‘Prove yourself!’, ‘Be patient!’
Known as “The World’s Most Traveled Athlete” ™. To date, Gary Player has traveled more than 28 million air kilometers around the world during his 65-year career.
You went through a tragedy early on in your life, around age 8. How did that propel you forward, and what can others learn from this when they face adversity?
The world does not owe anyone anything. It’s how you respond to life which determines your successes. After my mother died from cancer, and there was no one to really look after me, I could have – probably should have – gone down a dark path.
I remember my mother lying on that hospital bed. She got a call from a friend (who knew she was sick) and she asked how my mother was feeling. To my surprise, she said ‘I feel fantastic!’ When she hung up the phone, I just looked at her in disbelief. But the words she said next ring in my head every day. She said, ‘Gary, don’t put your problems on somebody else; they have enough of their own.’
Face adversity head-on with tenacity, determination and grit. You will be a better person for it.
Fitness is something for which you’re equally as famous as you are for golf, and you credit it for much of your longevity and success. Any tips for those of us who struggle to integrate this into our lives?
One hour exercising is only 4 percent of the day. That’s my mentality. A person who exercises has more energy. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, buy yourself a treadmill. If you can’t afford a treadmill, walk around your neighborhood.
There are so many ways to be active. It helps your body and mind in so many ways we don’t even completely understand. We are at our infancy in understanding how fitness and diet can help your longevity. You need to sleep well. Meditate. Be grateful. Smile. Spend time with family and friends. Get outside and into nature. Help others.
I hope my life, and how I have approached fitness and diet, can be a case study for future generations.
Love isn’t a word often used when someone is mapping out his or her career. However, you’ve shared that you believe it’s the most important element for a life and career well-lived. Care to elaborate?
Love is the most important word in any language. If you have love in your heart, you will be fulfilled no matter what.
What advice would you give your 8-year-old self?
The exact same advice my brother gave to me before he left to fight in WWII – work hard, exercise every day, eat healthy, love unconditionally. Those words have served me well.
For anyone who aspires to achieve something great, what advice can you share?
Under no circumstances will this come easily, but you have to believe in yourself first. Visualize your goals. Remain positive. Be happy. Be enthusiastic. And never, never give up, no matter what the circumstances.