Never Say Die – The Jason Day Story


30 years old, Jason Day has an impressive list of accomplishments: In his 11-plus years on the PGA Tour, he has a dozen wins, including a major, has reached No. 1 in the world and has played on four Presidents Cup teams. Yet at this point of his career, the Aussie says he has underachieved. We caught up with Day at his home course in Ohio, the Double Eagle Club, a private but unpretentious retreat in a quiet, leafy 'burb outside Columbus, where he talked about missed opportunities, LeBron James' golf swing, becoming friends with boyhood idol (and fellow golf nerd) Tiger Woods, dealing with a zombie-like sleep routine, and why he bought his son, Dash, a punching bag.


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HOW MANY PLAYERS TODAY ARE PLAYING FOR HISTORY? ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?

I'm definitely one of those guys. There are probably five to 10 right now. You can look at the top of the world ranking and pretty much figure out most of them. The rest? They're trying to make a good living, enjoy life and go on about their way. I don't want to put a number on majors or victories or goals, because sometimes you get to a point where you're just struggling to get to that number. But let's say you have 20 to 30 wins and multiple major championships. Not a lot of guys have done that. I'd also like to win the [modern] career Grand Slam. Only five guys have [Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus and Woods]. That, plus being No. 1 in the world and 20 to 30 wins, yeah, that's a pretty phenomenal career.

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HAVING SAID THAT, DO YOU CARE HOW YOUR CAREER WILL BE EVALUATED 25 OR 100 YEARS FROM NOW?

No one's gonna remember. They remember Jack, Tiger, Arnie, Gary, but that's the 1 percent of the 1 percent. The one-name club. I know how hard I work, and I'm trying to win as many tournaments and majors as I can for me and my team, but I know one day I'm gonna be gone and forgotten. I was just talking to someone the other day who played in the Greg Norman Junior Masters. I know Greg Norman and what he's done, but kids back home go, "Who's Greg Norman?" Everyone gets to a point where you're forgotten, unless you're in that one-name club.

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SPEAKING OF THE ONE-NAME CLUB, WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO LEBRON LEAVING CLEVELAND AGAIN?

It's not as bad as the first time he left. The way they did it in 2010 with "The Decision," the whole production and "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach," it cut a lot of people deep, especially diehard Cavs fans. People were burning jerseys. It was nuts. But he won them a title when he came back, so I think that lessened it. I'm a Cavs fan, but I'm an adopted Cavs fan. I live here and have a buddy who has seats on the floor. So at the end of the day, as long as LeBron's happy and his family is happy, that's all that matters.

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HAVE YOU TRIED TO GET LEBRON INTO GOLF?

No. I've seen him swing, and it looks terrible. Just awful. To be honest, I don't really know him that well. When it comes to celebrities, I try to stay away...

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... UNLESS THEY CRASH INTO YOUR WIFE. [ELLIE DAY SUFFERED A CONCUSSION IN DECEMBER 2015 WHEN JAMES COLLIDED WITH HER WHILE ATTEMPTING TO REACH A BALL AT COURTSIDE.]

Exactly! If they reach out to me, I'm happy to respond and maybe spend time with them or get to know them, but when it's someone as big as LeBron, he's always got people clawing at him. I remember what it was like for me when I got to No. 1, so I can't imagine what his life is like.

Lebron’s golf game? ‘I’ve seen him swing, and it looks terrible. just awful.’


HOW SCARY WAS THAT IN THE MOMENT WITH ELLIE, AND WHAT KIND OF INTERACTIONS HAVE YOU HAD WITH LEBRON SINCE THEN?

I was in shock. If you watch a replay of it, there was a moment when I was sort of smiling and laughing, which is weird, but when something bad happens, that's usually my reaction, for some reason. When I saw her on the ground, it was obviously really scary. But when I could see that she could move her arms and legs, I knew it would be OK. J.R. Smith and LeBron came over to check on her. Later on, LeBron texted Ellie. I don't even know how he got her number. He didn't need to reach out, though. He was just doing his job. But just recently, before he became a free agent and left, he sent a signed jersey with a note saying, "Please come back to a game," because she hadn't been back to one since it happened.

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WHAT WAS THE REACTION AFTER ELLIE MADE HER MISCARRIAGE PUBLIC LATE IN 2017?

Oh, man. The support we got was amazing. But it's still tough to talk about.

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YOU AND DASH DID A GOLF DIGEST FATHER-SON COVER STORY A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. IS HE PLAYING ANY GOLF THESE DAYS?

He does, but he's really into boxing. My uncle was a Golden Gloves boxer, and my dad taught us how to box. When we got bullied at school, he got us a boxing bag and told us, "Go punch that every day." He taught us—and this is so bad, but it's that old-school mentality—that when you get bullied, the first thing you do is knock that person out. That was his mentality. I was more scared of my dad than whoever was bullying me. I remember telling my sister, too, the first thing you do is walk right up to that girl and punch her in the face.

Jason Day and Family

Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesDay and his wife, Ellie, pose with their children, Lucy and Dash, on the 18th green after winning the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship.

For Dash's birthday, he got a little speed bag. Mama doesn't want him to box, but I want him to—it creates good hand-eye coordination, and if you can do it properly, you can work on power and take that back into golf. In golf, you use the ground to create the forces to hit it far, and it's the same thing in boxing with throwing a punch. You have to start with your feet. I'm trying to work on a few technical things with him, like how to get back off the ropes when you're covering up. He loves it.


Jason Day: How To Get Your Little One Started In Golf


YOUR CHILDHOOD HAS BEEN WELL-DOCUMENTED. YOUR DAD WAS AN ALCOHOLIC, AND IT WAS ROUGH. YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THAT TIME?

I can't remember my life when I was a kid—maybe intentionally. I talked to a psychologist about it the other day. I blocked it because of certain memories, but I think that's very natural. If I stayed where I was, no doubt I would've been an idiot. It was a learning experience, and unfortunately it was a blessing when he passed away. If he was with me now, I'm not sure anybody would stick around me. He would have been hard to deal with.

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WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS INJURY-PRONE OR ACCIDENT-PRONE? YOU SEEM TO SUFFER INJURIES OR ILLNESSES MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE.

Really? No, I don't think so. But I don't sleep well. I average about five hours a night. Two days ago, I slept for 2½ hours. I'm always up. I can't sleep. When you don't sleep, you don't recover, and if you don't recover, your immune system is down, and if your immune system is down, more things can happen.

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DO GUYS ON TOUR GIVE YOU GRIEF ABOUT IT?

Not really. Maybe. Not to my face. I don't pay attention to it if they do, anyway. Tiger can't give me crap, because I know how injured he's been. But my back has been phenomenal ever since the start of this year—I don't have any issues whatsoever right now. I wake up with little aches and pains, but it's not like it used to be when I had back problems or my shoulder was bothering me. I'm glad I'm past all of that.