By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Nothing is good enough for Jason Day.
He won The Players Championship for his seventh victory in the last 10 months, and all he could talk about was winning more. He is No. 1 in the world by an increasingly large margin over Jordan Spieth, and his points average is the highest of any player since Tiger Woods in the late summer of 2013. Day wants to go higher.
“Keep pushing,” he said Sunday after his four-shot victory. “Yeah, keep pushing, because Tiger says he’s going to kick my butt when he comes back, so I’m going to try and extend that gap. So if he does come back and he’s turned into Tiger Woods again, I’ve got to watch my behind.”
Woods hasn’t played since August. He hasn’t won in three years.
Part of his time appears to be spent on sending text messages to Day, who never fails to mention how much he has leaned on his idol for advice on how to play, how to think his way around the golf course, how to close out tournaments.
At the moment, Day looks like a suitable replacement.
His work ethic is fierce. He hits it long, straight and can hit a 3-iron higher than the pine trees lining the fairways. His iron play is among the best. His scrambling? He got up-and-down 85 percent of the time, the highest rate of anyone at The Players Championship. And, for the most part, he felt as if he could make anything with his putter.
“It’s no coincidence he’s No. 1 in the world,” Justin Thomas said. “He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can’t. His short game is ridiculous. I think I’ve pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf.”
Adam Scott played with his fellow Australian during a practice round and saw him oozing with confidence.
Scott knows that look.
When he was an amateur, Scott played a practice round with Woods in Las Vegas before Woods went over to Pebble Beach for the 2000 U.S. Open, which he won by 15 shots. What always stood out about Woods is not that he won, and won big, but that he did it for so long.
“I always try to explain how good you feel after one win,” Scott said. “And I try to imagine how good Tiger felt just playing five years into his pro career having won like 50 events, and imagine how you’d feel confidence wise. And Jason must be kind of feeling something like that at the moment. And that’s an incredibly nice way to walk out on the golf course. And you can see it with Jason.
“You can see there’s that calmness inside him – calm confidence -and the way he’s walking around. He’s got that kind of unbeatable look about him.”
He has looked that way ever since he left that birdie putt short on the 18th green at St. Andrews that kept him out of the playoff at the British Open. Day found something that week – a combination of desire and belief – and he has parlayed that into a run Scott referred to as “Tigeresque.”
He won the Canadian Open the following week. He set a major championship record at 20-under par to win the PGA Championship. He won two FedEx Cup playoff events, though that didn’t trump all that Spieth did last year.
And after a slow start following a long winter’s break, Day hit his stride with a wire-to-wire victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, and he was just as dominant the following week at the Dell Match Play. He won seven matches, and only one of them reached the 18th hole at Austin Country Club. And now this.
Day began his week by tying the course record with a 63 and breaking the 36-hole record with 15-under 129. All that stopped him from more marks were greens that got away from the PGA Tour, faster than anyone could recall. Day made two double bogeys on the front nine, and both times answered with birdies.
He was on the ropes again Sunday – a bogey on No. 6, avoiding another bogey by making a 15-foot putt on No. 7, and then taking three chips from 40 feet right of the green on the par-5 ninth and having to make a 6-foot putt just to salvage bogey.
Spieth tweeted Sunday night that Day’s bogey putt was “possibly most underrated shot of the day. Gathered emotions knocked it in and led to a clutch back nine. Great win.” Day agreed. Asked the most significant shot he hit Sunday, he didn’t hesitate to mention that putt. “Probably the most crucial putt of this tournament for me,” he said.
Day has won seven of his last 17 starts, and the confidence is growing. The scary part for the rest of golf is that the celebration doesn’t last long.
“This is great to be The Players champion,” Day said. “But now once tonight is done and tomorrow starts, it’s another week. I have to get ready and prepare for the next tournament coming up, because it’s never enough. Winning is never enough. And I’ve got to try and do it as much as I can before my time is over.”