Jason Day shot 66 on Saturday.
Jack Carroll/Icon SMI
Thursday, January 05, 2012

NORTON, Mass. — Fredrik Jacobson had the honor as he, Jason Day and Mark Wilson headed toward the 18th tee in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Saturday.

But Jacobson had to go to the bathroom, so before ducking into a porta-loo he deferred to his playing partner.

"You can hit your shot if you want to," he said to Day.

There was a time when Day, 21, would have taken him up on the offer. He would have rushed to the tee, taken a mighty rip and watched the ball sail off into the distance.

Day has always seemed like he was in a hurry.

At 16 he won the Queensland Amateur, becoming the youngest champion in its 104-year history. At 19 he won the Nationwide Tour's Legend Financial Group Classic, becoming the youngest to win a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

"I want to get out of the blocks pretty quick and win an event," he said of his rookie year in 2008, but he not only failed to win an event, he failed to keep his card.

Day, who was four off the lead in Boston (68-66) until a tough day Sunday, struggled off the course, too.

He blew out his back and was out of action for a month and a half during the summer swing.

His Cadillac Escalade was stolen out of a Best Buy parking lot in Texas. Day and his fiance Ellie Harvey had bought a few CDs and ducked into PetSmart next door to pick up some dog food for Day's new puppy.

"We were in there for literally 10 minutes," Harvey said. "We came out and it was gone. It had our cell phones in it and everything."

The truck was recovered, but '08 was a loss. Day's game was a casualty of moving (Orlando to Fort Worth), grand-theft auto, his bad back, a lingering right wrist injury that sidelined him for the last two Nationwide events of 2007, and unfamiliar Tour courses and cities.

Adversity wasn't new. The son of Queensland meat workers, Day's first club was a 3-wood that his father Alvin found at the dump. Jason bought school clothes one year at St. Vincent de Paul — all he could cram into a bag for $5.

Alvin died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12, and he was sent to a boarding school/golf school, where he rebelled by drinking and fighting. He began to reform under the guidance of Col Swatton, an instructor at the academy who became Day's caddie and surrogate father.

It was the best comeback story until now, as Day continues to prove you're never too young for a second act.

"It's been a good year; I've just kept improving every week," Day said as he walked with Ellie to brunch at TPC Boston's player dining room Sunday morning. "And I'm finally 100 percent healthy."

Day did not jump at Jacobson's offer on 18 Saturday; he took his proper spot in the batting order (after the Swede, before Wilson), and crushed a 300-yard drive on the way to making a birdie 4. His 66 could have been even better were it not for a double-bogey on the ninth hole.

Jason and Ellie are scheduled to wed in Ohio on Oct. 3, and if all goes according to plan, Day will be playing golf all the way until six days before the wedding. He is 46th on the FedEx Cup points list, thanks in part to a final-round 67 and a T12 at the Barclays at Liberty National last week.

The top 70 make it into the BMW Championship next week, and then the top 30 qualify for the Tour Championship.

Adding to the pre-wedding jitters, Day committed to do a sponsor day the day after the Tour Championship ends.

"That week is just going to be madness," he said.

But good madness. This is what was expected of Day when he won the 2004 Callaway Junior World Championship, and when he made seven of seven cuts on Tour in 2006, including a T11 at Reno-Tahoe and a T13 at Milwaukee.

Day's 2009 comeback began with limited status thanks to a T53 finish at Q school. But he tied for second place at the Puerto Rico Open, played opposite the WGC-CA Championship in March. And he parlayed a sponsor's exemption at Colonial (he's a member at the club and lives nearby) into a fourth-place finish in late May.

To look at Day today is to be reminded of his stated goal of staring down Tiger Woods. Before his rookie year Day declared his intention to get "athletically ripped," so he wouldn't look and feel puny next to the chiseled Woods, and it's impossible not to notice the 30 pounds of muscle Day has packed on since '06. (Woods is 6' 1"; Day is 6'0".)

You can easily imagine the showdown, one self-described "Caublanasian" Nike guy (Woods) and one part-Filipino Australian Adidas guy (Day), both buffed for battle.

In retrospect, perhaps the expectations were too high. Harvey admits that amid the life changes and bad breaks in '08, Day probably didn't work as hard as he could have, which worsened his struggle.

"I really think it was all for the best," she said. "Although he probably wouldn't say that."

He might. Day was playing a practice round with Adam Scott in 2005 when he asked Scott if he should turn pro. Scott said he should, and told the story of Justin Rose, who also gave up his amateur status as a teenager, and endured 22 straight missed cuts.

In retrospect, Rose told Scott, he wouldn't trade that trial by fire for anything.

Given where he stands now, neither would Day. He's a lesson in perseverance. He's come from nothing, been knocked down and bounced back again.

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