Half a century after golf’s golden days, Sir Nick Faldo is tipping Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy could dominate the game as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player did.
Day’s breakthrough at the US PGA Championship confirmed the sport’s new order as the Australian ace joined fellow 20-somethings Spieth and McIlroy in the world’s top three rankings.
Day’s arrival as a major champion coincided with his idol, 14-times major champion Tiger Woods, missing the cut in back-to-back majors for the first time.
“G’day to Australia and welcome to J-Day to the major circle,” Faldo said in television commentary as Day reigned at Whistling Straits with the first-ever 20-under-par score at a major.
“We had the Big Three moons ago. Now we’re approaching having another Big Three in the game of golf.”
The changing of the guard now complete, Faldo believes the new-age stars can forge a special rivalry like Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player enjoyed back in the 1960s and 70s.
Lifelong friends but fierce on-course rivals, golf’s original Big Three snared 34 major titles in total, including 11 of 17 from 1960 and the last of Palmer’s seven in 1964.
Spieth, McIlroy and Day have some way to go matching the 26 majors that Nicklaus, Palmer and Player accrued in a magical 15-year spell from 1960-75 – but they certainly look on their way.
The trio have won five of the past six majors and, if not for a monster putt from American spoiler Zach Johnson on the 72nd hole at St Andrews last month, Day or Spieth could well have made it six from six since McIlroy began the spree at the 2014 British Open.
Day and Spieth both finished a shot shy of Johnson at The Open before atoning with a Sunday duel at the PGA which surely won’t be their last.
While McIlroy, already a four-time winner on golf’s grandest stages, and Spieth, who went agonisingly close to becoming the first player since Woods to land three majors in a single season, have enjoyed the spotlight, Day has at last emerged from their shadows.
It had been a long time coming for something seemingly so inevitable.
Day’s three runner-up prizes in nine previous top-10s at the majors weren’t even his closest.
The 27-year-old still burns from Adam Scott and not him being the player to break Australia’s 77-year Masters hoodoo in 2013.
Day led by two shots with three to play before faltering and will return to Augusta National in April once more with unfinished business, but with fresh belief after finally cracking the majors club.
Once he feared ending up working in an abattoir like his father did before passing away when Day was 12.
Now Day is closer than ever to achieving his career-long goal of following Woods as a world No.1, a reward that’s seemed his destiny since he changed paths from a road to ruin as a troubled teen.
The Queenslander has been ticking boxes ever since winning the Australian Masters junior title at 13.
At 16, he won the boys’ 15-17 division at the 2004 world junior championships.
At 19, he became the youngest winner of a US Tour-sanctioned event when he took out the Nationwide Tour’s Legend Financial Group Classic in Cleveland.
At 22, he became Australia’s youngest-ever PGA Tour winner when he smoked them at the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas.
Now he’s Australia’s youngest major winner since the great Peter Thomson secured the second of his five Claret Jugs 60 years ago.
American great Johnny Miller earmarked Day as the next big swing way back in his breakout year of 2010, after he made the cut on his majors debut at St Andrews.
“He could be the next super, super player,” Miller gushed.
“He seems to have the whole package.
“He has so much acceleration that the good news is he hits a little fade, which is what you’re supposed to be doing.
“His distance is fantastic. Great ball flight. Perfect position in his golf swing, and great balance.
“He looks like he could be the next great player.”
Five years on and Day is living up to the hype.
GOLF’S ORIGINAL BIG THREE
JACK NICKLAUS – 18 majors 1962-86 (6 Masters, 4 US Opens, 3 British Opens, 5 US PGAs)
GARY PLAYER – 9 majors 1959-78 (3 Masters, 1 US Open, 3 British Opens, 2 US PGAs)
ARNOLD PALMER – Arnold Palmer 7 majors 1958-64 (4 Masters, 1 US Open, 3 British Opens)
THE NEW-ERA BIG THREE
World No.1 JORDAN SPIETH – 2 majors 2015 (1 Masters, 1 US Open)
World No.2 RORY MCILROY – 4 majors 2011-14 (1 US Open, 1 British Open, 2 US PGAs)
World No.3 JASON DAY – 1 major 2015 (US PGA)
TEH NEW BIG THREE IN 2015 MAJORS
SPIETH – Masters (Won), US Open (Won), British Open (T4th), US PGA (2nd) – overall 54-under-par
MCILROY – Masters (4th), US Open (T9th), British Open (DNP, injured), US PGA 17th – overall 21-under-par
DAY – Masters (T28th), US Open (T9th), British Open (T4th), US PGA (Won) – 34-under-par.