PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Jason Day grew up idolizing Tiger Woods.
Now he’s playing like the Tiger of old.
And chatting with him on a regular basis.
Following his wire-to-wire tour de force in winning The Players Championship on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass by four shots — his seventh win in 17 starts and third this season — Day gave credit to the 14-time major champion.
As he has said often this year, the two have become texting buddies with a few phone calls thrown in. Whether they talk training or diet or dealing with the media or the pressure of being No. 1, Day said he soaks in the knowledge whenever he communicates with Woods, who is on the sidelines recovering from back surgery.
“It’s been an amazing kind of journey for me to be able to idolize him as a junior guy and growing up and now I’m good mates with him and I get to pick his brain about what he did when he was dominating,” Day said.
Now Day is the one dominating. The world No. 1 added his 10th PGA Tour title to his resumé on Sunday and can count among his wins a major championship, two WGC titles, two FedExCup wins and The Players.
And he’s starting to close out many of his wins just like Woods did. Woods has held the outright lead after 54 holes 45 times and finished off wins 43 times. Day has now won his last five Tour titles when holding the 54-hole lead.
“I don’t know his record of closing out 54-hole leads. I think it’s very high. I think he’s only lost maybe one or two,” Day said. “But to be able to talk to him and really have him text me and say, you know, you need to stay in your world and just focus on just getting it done and don’t think about anything else other than just hitting the shot. And all 18 holes are important, not just 16, 17 and 18. It’s a pretty good piece of advice, especially coming from a guy that has dominated the game for a very long time.
“ … For us to have that friendship and to be able to be open about talking and him taking me under his wing a little bit with regards to trying to finish tournaments and what he’s done in the past, I mean, that’s stuff you can’t really experience other than just getting there and doing it.”
After fellow Aussie Adam Scott finished his play on Sunday, he was asked about Day’s recent stretch of 7-for-17.
“That’s Tiger-esque, that kind of run,” Scott said.
When Day was told about the comment, he was moved a tad.
“That’s great to be in the same sentence as Tiger. You know, it’s only half the year, so I’ve got plenty of opportunities to try and win some more,” he said. “ … I’ve never been more motivated to be No. 1 in the world. I’ve never been more motivated to try to extend that lead from No. 1 to No. 1. All the hard work that I’ve put into my game right now has paid off, but I’ve got to keep working hard to win as much as I can.
“ … (I have to) keep pushing, keep pushing, because Tiger says he’s going to kick my butt when he comes back. So I’m going to try and extend that gap, so if he does come back and he’s turned into Tiger Woods again, I’ve got to kind of watch my behind.”