As a sports culture, while we enjoy the great athletes of our time, we have always had something of an obsession for the next "great one."
Ever since Tiger Woods began his domination of professional golf a dozen or so years ago, the question was posed almost yearly: Who will be the next superstar, the guy who will challenge Woods for the title of best in the world?
Pretenders and contenders lined up and faded away until Rory McIlroy started putting his stamp on the game over the past two years. He is the new Tiger, the player best suited to dominate the game the way Woods did.
Will that happen?
Who knows. There are no guarantees, but even as we wait for the 2013 season, we scan the golf horizon looking for the next great one.
Look no further.
I have the answer, and in this case, we will refer to it as the dawning of a new day.
Jason Day, that is.
Just a few weeks short of his 25th birthday, Day has already won over $10 million in a professional career that began in 2006. He posted his first and only victory in the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Classic.
In 2011, his fourth full season on the Tour, he registered his second-best finish in the FedEx Cup (12th) and a career-high ninth-place finish on the money list that includes the top 10 finishes.
In 2012, he finished in the top 25 eight times and had four top 10s. He’s a dynamic player, one who has a go-for-it mentality and is a crowd-pleaser. Rory McIlroy is the acknowledged “next” guy, but he’ll get plenty of heat from Day in the upcoming years.
Well, let’s look at a few reasons.
- He possesses plenty of distance off the tee, averaging 309.2 yards on the measured holes. That ranks him seventh on the PGA Tour. 47 percent of his measured drives were at least 300 yards, the eighth-best total on the Tour.
- He’s pretty darn accurate with approach shots 200 yards and longer, finishing 35th this season in that category. He’s even better from 250-275 yards, finishing first there, with an average putt left of 48 feet, seven inches.
- Day is one of those guys who isn’t afraid to go low. His final-round scoring average this year was 69.73, ninth-best on the Tour. He also has a birdie or better conversion rate of 32.49, meaning he’s hit 551 greens in regulation and made 179 birdies or better.
Day was born in Beaudesert, Queensland and started playing golf just after age six. He became a junior member at the Beaudesert Golf Club, where he was allowed to play six holes a day.
He attended the Kooralbyn International School, which has a golf course attached. He later attended Hills International College’s golf academy. While there, he borrowed a book about Tiger Woods from a roommate and it inspired him to improve by practicing in the early morning, at lunch and in the evening.
He’ll reach his 25th birthday with his life and golf games in good order.
He missed some time in the spring because of an ankle injury and missed some more time in the summer because of the birth of his first child, Dash.
But he’s come back from both of those and played very well at Las Vegas a few weeks ago. He made 10 birdies in a 13-hole stretch of the third round, and then birdied seven of the first nine holes in the final round.
Through the early part of his career, Day has been the kind of player who has gotten on hot streaks and ridden them as long as he could.
All signs are pointing to the fact that his game is in a position to get hot again. He’s put together a pair of 67s at the McGladrey Classic this week and goes into the weekend tied for 15th.
There’s reason to believe the improvement he’s shown this year will continue and he’ll take that next step into the realm of the world's elite players.
And wouldn’t it be great to have a talented player like Jason Day battling it out on a weekly basis with Rory McIlroy?