LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jason Day has been torn between golfing joy and personal grief over the past two months but he believes the experience has strengthened his resolve and character as he aims to build on a “good year” in 2014.
Aged just 26, the Australian has established himself as one of the game’s most exciting players and, with a rare ability to perform at his best when the pressure is at its most intense, has set his sights on landing a maiden major title.
Day has recorded six top-10s in golf’s blue riband events, including three this year, and proved in stunning fashion that he is well equipped to overcome adversity by completing an emotional double triumph at the World Cup of Golf last month.
Despite just days earlier having lost eight relatives who were killed in the Philippines by Typhoon Haiyan, he went on to win the World Cup of Golf by two strokes at Royal Melbourne, along with the team title in partnership with Adam Scott.
“That was obviously a very emotional week and to win the World Cup the way we did and then win the individual (title) on top of that, plus to have my family in town, was pretty special,” world number 11 Day told Reuters.
”I have played some pretty solid golf over the last three weeks so overall it’s been an up-and-down roller-coaster, as you would think. But I am very happy with how I have handled myself, through the good and the bad.
“It would have been the easiest thing for me to just go ahead and pull out of the tournament with what had been going on ... but I really wanted to play with Adam and try to win the World Cup, and we achieved that which was great.”
Day, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship, was especially delighted to clinch a fifth World Cup team title for Australia, their first since Peter Fowler and Wayne Grady triumphed in 1989.
“To bring it back to Australia, playing in front of the home crowd, and then winning it on one of the most well-known Australian golf courses was very special,” said Day, who is known for his attacking strategy and explosive shot-making.
“To be able to win it with Scotty, who has been a really good friend of mine for a long, long time now, to play as well as we did and to win it pretty convincingly in the end (by 10 shots), was a complete honor.”
Asked to assess his overall 2013 campaign, Day replied: ”It’s been a good year. The only thing that I obviously didn’t have was another win on the PGA Tour.
”But I had a really solid win at the World Cup against the best players in the world and that’s very encouraging for next year. I am very motivated.
“Now I’ve got about five or six weeks off, get some good rest and then get into the gym and try to really get fit for next year. I am looking forward to starting next season.”
Day, who ended his 2013 season by tying for ninth in an elite field of 18 at last week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in California, will specifically target golf’s four major championships next year.
”I would love to win a major,“ said the Queenslander who finished third at this year’s Masters before tying for second at the U.S. Open two months later. ”That’s a big goal of mine.
“I have to improve mentally a little more but I feel like my game is in a good spot. It’s getting tougher to win tournaments and you’ve just got to work harder than the next guy to have that extra edge over him.”
Should Day require major inspiration, he need look no further than at compatriot Scott, who made his long-expected breakthrough at the game’s highest level with a playoff victory at this year’s Masters.
Asked what he identified as the biggest difference in Scott’s game this year, Day replied: ”His game has always been there, I just think he’s working a little bit harder and he wants it a little bit more.
”It’s amazing the results you can get when you actually want it so bad that you will actually do it.
“Some years are up and down but when you really, really want it, it’s difficult not to get what you want because it’s just that law of attraction, I guess.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry