Jason Day had 12 career PGA victories prior to the Nelson PGA stop at the TPC Craig Ranch course outside of Dallas, Texas. Day’s first tournament victory 13 years ago was at the same Bryon Nelson event. Day has been absent from the winner’s circle since 2018 and almost had to give up the game. Chronic back ailments and related maladies had piled up and it takes incredible patience and persistence to overcome these issues and take on the best players in the world. Day had been making steady progress but on this Sunday, he took advantage of his position of playing in the second to last group and marched to a bogey free round of 8 under par 62. The 7400 yard TPC was a doormat for these professionals. Bouts of rain softened the fairways so the pins could be attacked with reckless abandon. Bunker shots and chips that might have gone awry under dryer conditions ambled right up to the pin for easy pars. Par was no good if you wanted to win this event as the average final round score was 67 for the field. It looked like Scottie Scheffler would walk away with another PGA Tour title but this tournament, as usual, would be decided with the putter. Scottie must have left about 30 feet of putts short and it deprived him of making the birdies he needed to put pressure on the field. Scheffler demonstrates a steel attitude and doesn’t let these situations impact his play. He felt that he didn’t have his best stuff but his attitude is so measured that it enables him to contend week after week. Jon Rahm demonstrates these same tendencies. Day needed his putter to work and his birdies on 14 and 15 to almost seal the deal but the field wasn’t quite done. It’s unusual for the 18th hole at a PGA event to be an easy hole but this hole created an eagle opportunity. A number of players went very low including SW Kim, CT Pan, Austin Eckroat and Terrell Hatton. Course conditions were about as ideal for scoring as you can imagine with soft greens and no wind. It seemed like the players were in Florida not Texas.
This day belonged to Jason Day. He has worked extremely hard and persevered through some very tough times to get back where he can play without pain. He has had to overcome vertigo and rebuild his swing to a competitive level. All of this takes tremendous mental and physical training and focus. It is easy to succumb to negativity at this level of professional golf so the mental challenge is as great if not greater than the physical challenge. I can’t imagine playing golf for a living and having to endure back pain and all the work it takes to overcome it while facing the best players in the world every week. I play with back pain all the time and it tends to have an impact in competition but at this point in my amateur career–I’m happy to just be out there.