Weekly Recap: Seize the Day

Weekly Recap: Seize the Day

This article is part of our Weekly PGA Recap series.

There aren't many golfers who have done what Jason Day has done in his career. If you're thinking that he's reached the pinnacle of his profession by becoming the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, you'd be right. But how many of those guys have fallen into oblivion, only to return to greatness?

Day completed that remarkable 360 on Sunday, winning the AT&T Byron Nelson in a madcap chase at TPC Craig Ranch that had almost as many contenders as last week's 18-horse Kentucky Derby.

There were 13 guys within two strokes of the lead early on the back nine. The only constant the rest of the way was Day, who shot a 9-under 62 to eclipse Si Woo Kim and emerging Austin Eckroat by a single stroke. All the others, including world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, spun through a revolving door atop the leaderboard but could never supplant Day.

It was Day's first win in five years, since the 2018 Wells Fargo, and 13th of his PGA Tour career. He is now back to No. 20 in the world after plunging outside the top-150 as he became more known for his debilitating injuries than this dominating stretch in 2015-16.

The 35-year-old Australian who now makes his home in Ohio won five times in 2015, when he outdueled Jordan Spieth to capture his lone major at the PGA Championship, and thrice more in 2016.

Day then had to deal not only with a back injury and vertigo, but his mom was stricken with lung cancer beginning 2017. Dening Day passed little more than a year ago, making this Mother's Day special but bittersweet.

"Yeah, I was in tears for a little bit there," Day said in the aftermath of his victory, "and to think about what my mom went through from 2017 on to her passing last year and then to know that -- it was very emotional to go through and to experience what she was going through, then I had injuries on top of all of that going on in my life.

"To be honest, I was very close to calling it quits. I never told my wife that, but I was okay with it, just because it was a very stressful part of my life."

It wasn't that long ago -- late last summer, in fact -- that Day hit his nadir, falling to 175th in the world rankings after a missed cut at the season-opening Fortinet Championship. In his very next start, he tied for eighth at the Shriners, then 11th, then 21st, then 16th. Then Day opened 2023 with seven straight top-20s, four of which were top-10s, two of which were top-5s.

This was an extraordinary reversal, seemingly out of nowhere.

But now Day once again is very much somewhere.

He heads to the PGA Championship at Oak Hill this week and, through all his struggles, he continued to play well at this major. He tied for fourth as recently as 2020. He made the cut in 2021 and 2022. In 2013, the last time the PGA was at Oak Hill, Day tied for eighth.

"The highs and lows of golf is interesting," Day said. "You definitely learn a lot about yourself through the lows more so than the highs obviously. I learned that I can handle the pressure still and focus, and I've still got the game to win.

"But a lot of that success today was based off a lot of the groundwork, six months ago, a year ago, two years ago, that built the game to where it is today, where I can succeed on a level like this.

"Yeah, I know that delayed gratification is probably the best feeling of all time. Instant gratification is great, but delayed gratification is the best."

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Si Woo Kim
Kim shared runner-up for his best finish since winning the Sony Open more than four months ago. He's up to eighth in the FedExCup point standings and 36th in the world rankings in what is shaping up as his best year since winning THE PLAYERS Championship six years ago.

Austin Eckroat
Out of the golf pipeline that is Oklahoma State, this co-runner-up is the best showing of Eckroat's brief career. His previous best came less than two months ago with a T5 at Puntacana, so we may be seeing the 24-year-old turning a corner. He is now No. 77 in the FedEx, and he soared all the way to 115th OWGR.

C.T. Pan
Considering Pan hadn't made a cut since Halloween – and that stretch even included a Korn Ferry Tour event – it's safe to say his solo fourth came out of nowhere. It's also safe to say it could be a long time before it happens again.

Scottie Scheffler
It's surely a surprise that Scheffler held a share of the lead on the back nine and, not only couldn't he close the deal, he let four guys overtake him to slip into a tie for fifth. Then again, he shot 65 and was beaten by a couple of 62s and a 63. Not much you can do about that. You just wonder how much it took out of Scheffler to grind to the finish with the PGA Championship four days away. 

Tyrrell Hatton
It wasn't the toughest field, but Hatton continued a brilliant three-month stretch with a tie for fifth, shooting 65-64 on the weekend. Let's see whether he can carry this over to the PGA Championship, at which he tied for 13th a year ago.

Zecheng Dou
Dou incredibly found himself with a two-stroke lead after eight holes on Sunday at his home course. Alas, he doubled the ninth. He wound up tied for fifth – still an incredible accomplishment. He hadn't done better than T49 in a PGA Tour event this season, so here's another guy who came out of nowhere. The T49 came in his prior start at Mexico, so that alone means Dou is worth watching to see how he does next time out, which should be at Colonial in two weeks.

Adam Scott
Scott hasn't missed a cut all year, but until last week at the Wells Fargo he hadn't had so much as a top-20. Now he has two top-10s in a row. After a tie for fifth at Quail Hollow, he tied for eighth at TPC Craig Ranch, taking some much-needed good mojo into the PGA Championship.

Vincent Norrman
The 26-year-old Swede who attended Florida State is making some inroads in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. Norrman tied for eighth, giving him four top-25s in his past six starts – and five of seven if you count the Zurich Classic. The first two came at opposite-field events, but the next two came at regular events, albeit non-designated. Still, this is a very promising development for Norrman, who should be on everybody's radar when he plays next – likely in another non-designated event in two weeks at Colonial.

Ryan Palmer
Palmer tied for eighth, his best showing by far in 2023 and his best since a T32 at the Sony more than four months ago. The Texan has often been good in his home state, so he'll be worth a look in two weeks at the Charles Schwab.

Stephan Jaeger
Jaeger is playing his best stretch of golf in 2023. He's made 10 of 12 cuts, but this tie for 11th follows a near top-25 at the Wells Fargo (T27), a tie for 18th at Mexico and another T27 at the Valspar. He's now 73rd in the FedEx, and his stats show a better than average golfer in every metric but putting, where he is about average.

Seamus Power
Power had hit a bit of a lull for couple of months until connecting for top-20s at Wells Fargo and now the Nelson (T18). He's done quite well at the majors the past two years, so this offers some hope that that trend will continue this week at Oak Hill.

Eric Cole
Cole tied for 23rd but, outside of Day, he was the big winner at the Nelson. He was next on the PGA Championship alternate list, and he's now in, since Day was already in the field. It'll be tough sledding for him to even make the cut in his second career major and first PGA, but that matters little at this time. Cole's career arrow is definitely pointing up.

Hideki Matsuyama
After bowing out of the Wells Fargo with his ongoing neck issue, Matsuyama made it through four rounds, which is all that really mattered for him at the Nelson. He tied for 23rd.

David Micheluzzi
The Australian Order of merit champion received a sponsor invite and he made the cut, tying for 67th. It was Micheluzzi's first PGA Tour event, but his second comes this week after receiving an invite to the PGA Championship. He's also played in a couple of DP World Tour events and made both cuts there.

MISSED CUTS

Not a lot going on here. Maverick McNealy, Justin Suh and Pierceson Coody did not make it to the weekend. For McNealy, it continues a disappointing 2023 in which he doesn't have a top-30 since the Sony Open in early January. For Suh, it's his first missed cut of the year, though he did WD from Pebble Beach. Both guys now head to the PGA Championship. Coody has had some great finishes in 2023, mostly on the Korn Ferry Tour but also a T14 at Bay Hill. The rookie is on the rise despite back-to-back missed cuts.

KOREAN TOUR

Sungjae Im curiously went halfway around the world a week before a major. At least he won the Woori Group Financial Championship. It was Im's first win anywhere since the 2021 Shriners.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for nine years. Len is a three-time winner of the FSWA DFS Writer of the Year Award (2020, '22 and '23) and a five-time nominee (2019-23). He is also a writer and editor for MLB Advanced Media.
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