Jason Day admits another near miss in a golf major may have broken his spirit.
Instead rivals are pondering how many more majors 27-year-old Day will win after he set a major championship scoring record as he triumphed at the US PGA Championship on Sunday.
Day’s relief was obvious as he spoke to golf writers after his victory at Whistling Straits.
“I guess you can take me off the best players without a major list now,” said Day, who followed with a heartfelt “Ding dong the witch is dead” tweet.
After nine top-10 finishes in majors including three runner-up performances, the Queenslander felt like he shook a gorilla off his back when he held off Masters and US Open champion, and new world No.1 Jordan Spieth in their final grouping for a three-shot victory.
It could hardly have been more emphatic as Day’s 20-under-par total of 268 surpassed Tiger Woods’ majors record for the lowest score against par – 19 – set at the 2000 British Open at St Andrews.
Having started the final round with a two-shot lead, Day admitted he needed to get the job done or potentially perish as a contender, and he responded by shooting a gritty 67 to Spieth’s 68.
“Knowing that I had the 54-hole lead, or tied for the 54-hole lead, for the last three majors and not being able to finish, it would have been tough for me mentally, to really kind of come back from that,” said new world No.3 Day.
“Even though I feel like I’m a positive person, I think that kind of in the back of my mind something would have triggered and I would have gone maybe I can’t really finish it off.”
That pressure added to the high emotion on the 18th green, with Day in tears even before he holed his short final putt, before embracing caddie, coach and career-long mentor Col Swatton.
“It was probably the hardest round of golf that I’ve ever had to play,” he said.
“I knew today was going to be tough, but I didn’t realise how tough it was going to be.
“The experiences that I’ve had in the past with previous major finishes definitely helped me prepare myself for a moment like this.”
Day’s victory’s was greeted by an outpouring of congratulations from his peers who recognised how much he deserved it after his efforts in recent years.
Countryman Adam Scott summed it up, declaring it was just the start for Day.
“I am so impressed and proud of Jase,” Scott told AAP.
“No one in the game is more deserving of a major. He made it look easy. There will be more to come. It is now his time.”
Day’s tears at the 18th also stemmed from realising how far he had come – from self-confessed ratbag kid to major champion.
After losing his father to cancer at age 12, Day went off the rails and was drinking alcohol and getting in street fights at 13.
Fearing he would be sent to juvenile detention or even killed, his mother borrowed money and sent him to Koralbyn International School for their golf program.
It was there he met teacher Swatton, forming the relationship that has blossomed to this victory.
“The path that I was on, it was never expected for me to be here,” Day said.
“If my dad didn’t pass away, I don’t think I would have been in a good spot.
“That’s what I was saying, when a door closes, another door opens up for that opportunity.
“I’ve changed so much from where I was and what I saw as a kid to where I am now.
“My mum took a second mortgage out on the house, borrowed money from my aunt and uncle, just to get me away from where I was, to go to school.
“We were poor. We were really poor. I remember watching her cut the lawn with a knife because we couldn’t afford to fix the lawnmower.
“I remember not having a hot water tank, so we had to use a kettle for hot showers.
“So just to be able to sit in front of you guys today and think about those stories, it gets me emotional knowing that I’m the PGA Champion now and it feels good.”