WHEN he burst onto the scene with two runners-up finishes at Majors four years ago, Australian Jason Day looked bound to quickly establish himself as one of the main players in world golf.
Day has by no means faded into obscurity, but for all his talent, further near misses at the big events and plenty of top 10 spots, he has not pushed on as many expected. Before last week he had won just two titles on the PGA Tour, where he plays most of his golf.
Speaking on Sunday, after making it three wins with victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, he admitted that he had previously been too happy with second place. That is not something I would have expected from him – the Aussies tend to be a tough, gung-ho bunch – but if he says it then it must be true.
Day did nothing like settle for another runners-up place at the weekend, though, showing his determination by coming through a tough four-man play-off to record a very big win. That lifted him back up to No4 in the world. He has made no secret of wanting to challenge for Rory McIlroy’s top spot, and I see no reason why he can’t get close to the Northern Irishman.
He is still only 27, has great technique and can hit the ball for miles. Players with swings like him and Rory are capable of anything – when they get on a roll they can knock it to within 10 feet hole after hole – and, like McIlroy, I fully expect Day to contend again strongly at the Masters in two months’ time.
While Day was winning, Scotland’s Martin Laird notched his second successive top 10 finish while Ian Poulter will be pleased to have shone, even if he did tail off over the weekend.
His fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, meanwhile, finished fifth as he attempted to retain the Malaysian Open, though there was no disgrace in losing to a great display by India’s Anirban Lahiri.
I love stories like this. With a three-year European Tour exemption in the bag and a boost up the rankings, this will change a young man’s life – although he is no novice. Lahiri may not be well known but had already won five times on the Asian Tour and is now up to No37 in the world.
Lahiri is now 25 places higher than Tiger Woods, whose recent struggles continued on Thursday when he withdrew injured from the Farmers Insurance Open.
It’s lucky he has won the Masters and is therefore exempt, otherwise he might not even qualify for this year’s first Major.
These are tough times for Tiger, who has either withdrawn or missed the cut in six of the nine events he has played in the last 12 months, and I’m interested to see how he responds.
Make no mistake, he is a legend, and if he quit tomorrow would be in the top four players of all time. We mustn’t give up on a man who, potentially, still has plenty of years left on tour. Personally, I’d like to see him rediscover his form and vie with McIlroy for supremacy. When Woods is up there on the leaderboard, golf is simply more exciting.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam