Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 5, 2014

Day excited about competing in the Greenbrier Classic

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Second place in a professional golf tournament makes for a nice pay day, but winning a major championship is what Jason Day wants most.

His next chance — after three second place and one third place finish — is next week when the U.S. Open is held at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

“I think the biggest thing is the experience you gain from the losses that you have and knowing that it is OK to lose,” said Day, who was at The Greenbrier on Tuesday for a press conference for the upcoming Greenbrier Classic. “It is OK to fail, just get back on your feet and keep pushing and trying to get better each and every year.

“Hopefully it will come. As long as I keep working hard and I want it, I am pretty sure it will come.”

The 26-year-old PGA Tour pro from Australia has been a regular on the leader board at majors since finishing second at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2011. He came equally close last year, placing second at the U.S. Open, third in the Masters and eighth in the PGA.

Jim Justice, the chairman and owner of The Greenbrier, sees a future star in Day, who is currently ranked 7th in the world, and 34th in FedExCup points.

“You can tell by his personality, he is engaging, great looking guy, a real young guy, and can play the dickens out of this game,” Justice said. “Who knows if he is not really our next Tiger Woods, he really may be.

“He is really special, he is a heck of a player and he can play when the flag goes up.”

Day’s greatest challenge at Pinehurst could be rust, having injured his left thumb while winning the Accenture Match Play championship earlier this year, which sidelined him for three months.

He did return for the Masters for good reason, with a chance to move into the No. 1 spot in the world. Instead, fellow Australian Adam Scott currently resides there.

“I am fine, I am fully healed, I took off three months, in the middle of that I played Augusta,” said Day, who also finished second this year in the Farmers Insurance Open. “I definitely had an opportunity, I was No. 4 at the time and with a win there I would have shot up to No. 1 in the world so I definitely had an opportunity if I had won at Augusta.

“I finished t20, I had six weeks off before that and playing that tournament probably set me back two or three weeks in the healing process.”

He made his permanent return to the PGA Tour last week, finishing in a tied for 37th last week at the Memorial, played on Day’s home course at the Muirfield Village just outside of Columbus, Ohio.

“It is just good to be back and be able to swing again,” Day said. “It was  getting really frustrating there for a second to start off the year the way I did, to play great golf and get to where I wanted to be early in my direction was huge.

“It is the best way I have started in my career and won the WGC-Match Play, but I am just finally happy I can come out and play. I am really looking forward to coming back here and playing. Obviously my next one is the U.S. Open so I am definitely looking forward to getting that under way.”

Day, a native of Australia, has won two PGA Tour events, also claiming the Byron Nelson in 2010. He won once on the Web.Com Tour, and captured the 2013 ISPS Handa World Cup, an event he played in this year just days after learning that eight relatives had died in Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Up next for Day is Pinehurst, which was the scene of Payne Stewart’s U.S. Open win in 1999, followed by Michael Campbell winning the same trophy in 2005.

“I haven’t really played Pinehurst, I remember going back there a couple of years ago playing nine holes,” said Day, who grew up playing on a course in Australia with five sand greens among the nine holes. “I am going to go this Thursday, and get in some good prep before the week starts.

“I am going to prepare the best I can, there is no doubt about that. Every tournament I come into I try to prepare the best that I can and from there it is just execution. If I can execute properly then I will have a good shot, but it is tough to tell.”

Day made his first appearance at The Greenbrier earlier this week, and anxiously awaits The Greenbrier Classic, which will be held on July 3-6 in what is the 100th year for the Old White TPC.

“It is the caliber of play that is put in front of you and the just the amount of people that are out there watching,” Day said. “I have heard you can get 20,000 people out here watching every day so that sort of fan base, that amount of eyes that are watching you, you definitely don’t want to go out there and make a fool of yourself.

“It is definitely a grind and this course is tough. I definitely like tougher courses, I like to compete against players that you know is going to make it hard on yourself...

“I have never played this course, but I have heard phenomenal things about it and I have heard it is tough. I am more of a player that likes tough courses so you are going to have to really bear down mentally and physically and grind it out and that is what I like.”

Just because Day will come in as one of the highest ranked players in the world, he understands that means nothing when it comes to this course.

After all, it’s been lesser known players like Stuart Appleby — who had to shoot a final round 59 to win in 2010 — Scott Stallings, Ted Potter Jr., and Jonas Blixt who have finished on top. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson has missed the cut in all three of his appearances, while Tiger Woods did the same in his only visit to West Virginia.

“I watch it every year, I know Phil hasn’t made the cut here in three years or so,” Day said. “This being 2,000 feet above sea level, there is definitely some tricks to the course, obviously there is a lot of slope here, you look out and around yourself and there are a lot of hills here.

“There has to be some sort of tricks to the greens, I have the best guy (Justice) right here to tell me all about it. When I come into town to prepare for it that is something I am definitely going to come to the locals that know the course well to really get as much knowledge as I can.

The more knowledge I have about this course it is better for me to maybe compete, play well and win.”

Don’t be surprised if Day is back in the future, perhaps on an annual basis.

“I am really looking forward to getting to play this tournament, I think this is going to be a phenomenal event,” Day said. “I can see it maybe on a regular basis here, obviously it is kind of hard to tell, but this certainly is a tournament that fits into my schedule.

“I am looking forward to seeing what it has to offer this year and hopefully go on from there.”

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

 / Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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