Jason Day: From drunk 12-year-old to US PGA champion

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Jason Day & Colin Swatton
Jason Day broke down in tears after winning the US PGA Championship

When Jason Day fell flat on his back at the US Open in June, his head swimming with debilitating vertigo, the first person to help him to his feet was the most important man in his life.

Colin Swatton is much more than just a caddie to the Australian star who broke his major duck with victory at the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Sunday.

Swatton's support helped his ailing boss complete the US Open at Chambers Bay. Within two months Day fulfilled his golfing potential in brilliant style with a record-breaking major championship score of 20 under par.

To have risen from such a stricken position to the top of the golfing world, reflects the journey Day has taken in life with Swatton as mentor, coach and caddie.

It is little wonder that Day tearfully embraced Swatton immediately after tapping in the putt that gave him a three-shot victory over new world number one Jordan Spieth.

"On the 18th all I said was 'I love you'," Swatton said. "And he loves me, and we were a blubbering mess. It was pretty cool.

Jason Day
Day collapsed during the US Open

"This makes me incredibly proud. To stand on the 18th green and share that moment.

"I knew with the work ethic and the drive and the motivation, the skills would develop over time. He will continue to grow and to get better."

It was Swatton who played the father figure after Day's father died from cancer. The young Queenslander was in serious danger of going off the rails and the then teacher at the Hills International Golf Academy was his saviour.

"He's been there for me since I was 12 and a half years old," Day said. "He's taken me from a kid that was getting into fights at home and getting drunk at 12external-link and not heading in the right direction to a major champion.

"And there's not many coaches that can say that in many sports. So he means the world to me. I love him to death."

Golf's newest major champion only took up the game when his late father rescued an old three wood from a rubbish dump. It only became Day's salvation because it brought him into contact with Swatton, who imposed a disciplined coaching regime.

Jason Day
Day becomes the fifth Australian to win the US PGA Championship

"Growing up, we - my mom - we were poor," Day said. Following his father's death, his mother needed to take out a second mortgage.

On Sunday her son banked a cheque for $1.8m with the untold riches that will inevitably follow from sponsors and backers.

It's a far cry from the moment in June when he lay on the ninth fairway at Chambers Bay, his head spinning with the vertigo condition that made standing up impossible.

Yet Day still managed to play well enough the following day to earn a share of the lead going into the final round of the US Open. He ultimately faded to finish in a share of ninth.

Doctors were then able to identify the cause of the dizziness that seemed to threaten his career and, properly treated, Day was a refreshed figure when he turned up at St Andrews for The Open in July.

Again he shared the lead going into the final round and again he wasn't up to it in the final analysis. Day left short a birdie putt on the final green to miss the play-off by a single stroke.

Jason Day with Canadian Open trophy
Jason Day with the Canadian Open trophy

He squeezed shut his eyes in anguish. It was another near miss in a major and a sixth top-four finish in one of the big four tournaments in a still young career.

Even though he was only 27 years old, observers were starting to wonder whether he had what it took to land one of the game's biggest prizes.

In regular tour events his winning ratio was poor before a big breakthrough the week after St Andrews. At the Canadian Open he birdied the last three holes to clinch only his fourth PGA Tour title.

And the way he compiled a brilliant front-running 67 to hold Spieth at bay in the final round at Whistling Straits spoke volumes for how he has graduated to the upper echelons of the game.

Spieth is at the vanguard having taken over from Rory McIlroy at the top of the rankings but Day may prove capable of joining the budding rivalry that will propel a new era for the game.

Day has shown talent to suggest he can sit alongside Spieth and McIlroy, who respectively spearhead American and European golf. Day offers an Australian dimension which offers exciting potential for the global game.

As Swatton observed: "We are approaching another big three in golf."

There's a long way to go before Spieth, McIlroy and Day can be regarded in the same was as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player,external-link who comprised the original big three. But maybe, somewhere in the future, that moment will come.

Swatton is well worth listening to - just ask Jason Day.


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