The Secret to Jason Day's Hot Streak (and Why It May End Soon)
Over the last two months, Jason Day has amassed a string of big achievements—his third PGA Tour win at the RBC Canadian Open, his first major title (won at a historic 20-under par at the PGA Championship), a victory at the Barclays to match Jordan Spieth’s four wins in 2015, and finally, a win at the BMW Championship to clinch the No. 1 spot in the world. This week, the 27-year-old will look to add the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and a cool $10 million to that list of 2015 accomplishments.
Thanks to his overall dominance, it’s been tough to identify the strongest facet of Day’s game during this run. Certainly his ability to bomb the driver with better-than-normal accuracy has been critical, and he’s been amazingly precise with a wedge in his hands.
But the real key? Putting.
Day has recently flashed one of the hottest putters ever seen in recent years. From the PGA to the Barclays Day averaged 1.6 strokes gained per round. Looking at all Tour players since the start of 2011—broken down into two-month stretches with a minimum of 12 rounds played—only nine other players have recorded superior stretches of putting performance. Even including an uncharacteristically poor putting week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Day has gained more than 0.9 strokes per round in the last two months, which ranks in the top 4 percent of putting streaks over the past five years.
And while it’s quite common for these hot putting streaks to lead to wins, Day has taken his hot streak to a completely different level. Of the nine golfers who putted better than him over a two-month stretch since 2011, six won at least one event during their streak. Both Tiger Woods in 2013 (Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Cadillac) and Zach Johnson in 2012 (Colonial and John Deere) won multiple events. But we have to go back to Woods in 2009 (AT&T National, Buick Open, and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational) to find a similarly great run of putting that also netted three wins to match Day.
Day’s run also bests both Spieth’s and Rory McIlroy’s best career putting streaks (though it’s possible that many of Rory’s best putting events have come in rounds not recorded by the PGA Tour’s Shot Link system). Earlier this season—culminating with the Masters—Jordan Spieth recorded a six-event string where he bettered the field by more than 1.2 putts per round (good enough to rank inside the top 1 percent of all putting streaks since 2011). McIlroy’s best run included last summer’s wins at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, but he’s never put together a run that would rank inside the top 10 percent of all streaks.
But the most mind-boggling aspect of Day’s game over the last two months is that not only has he putted better than almost anyone else in recent history, he’s also managed to pair that with the Tour’s best tee-to-green game. Compare his tee-to-green performance with the others who boast similar putting streaks and only Woods and Webb Simpson in 2013 come remotely close.
One common thread among these elite putting streaks is that almost all of them were accomplished by the very best putters in golf. Jonas Blixt, Greg Chalmers, Aaron Baddeley, and Brendon Todd are all known for their flatstick prowess, while Woods has been an excellent putter throughout the last decade. Simpson, Johnson and Day have all been above-average most of their careers. Some of the best putters, such as Baddeley and Chalmers, have recorded multiple hot streaks over the past five seasons, but it’s rare even for the best of the best to reach Day’s current level. The nine golfers with hotter streaks than Day followed those runs by gaining 0.25 strokes per round with the putter in the eight weeks following their run. That’s an average decline of nearly 1.5 strokes per round. In other words, historically speaking, it’s likely that this is the best Jason Day will putt for a long time to come.