LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jason Day usually doesn’t sleep very well, but the past few nights were even more fitful than usual. By his own admittance, he was more emotional, too. All of this despite spending his daytime hours turning Conway Farms Golf Club into his personal playground and making the BMW Championship a weekend coronation.
It wasn’t the tournament title that was leaving him so edgy. He has won enough of these now — and enough of ’em recently. This would be his fifth win of the year and fourth in his past six starts, so if anything, he was becoming accustomed to front-running his way to glory and a new piece of gleaming hardware.
No, this one was about so much more. With the victory, Day moved into the No. 1 position on the world ranking for the first time, a long-standing goal which underwent a metamorphosis from aspirational to controversial to finally, when the clinching putt rattled into the bottom of the cup Sunday afternoon, prophetic.
The idea of becoming a world-class golfer first entered his mind as a 9-year-old, while watching Tiger Woods win the 1997 Masters. By the time he was 13, Day was already thinking about someday becoming the world’s best player. It was a few more years, though, before he announced this to his mentor.
As Colin Swatton remembers it, Day was 17 years old and already a decorated junior competitor when he walked into his office at the Koralbyn International School’s golf academy in Queensland, Australia, and asked if he could one day turn himself into the game’s No. 1 player.
“I said, ‘Absolutely. You just have to listen, be patient, work hard and eventually you’re going to get there,'” recalled Swatton, who still serves as Day’s instructor and caddie. “I had every reason to believe he could get there one day.”
The two of them devised a plan, right in that office.
Day didn’t just want to become the No. 1 player in the world. He wanted to become No. 1 by the time he was 22, an age surpassed at the time by only Woods, his golfing idol.
“We wrote down everything,” he said. “There’s technical, tactical, physical and mental part of the plan. You have to fill all of those buckets up. I think the last thing that was lacking was the mental bucket. I was working on all these things and starting to fill those buckets up, opening that tap, letting [it] drip.”