After a number of close calls in recent years, Filipino Australian Jason Day won the 97th PGA Championship Sunday, winning his first major career victory by a record 20 under Sunday at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin.
In a confident display of power and composure, Day rid himself of major championship demons by holding off streaking Jordan Spieth, winner of two majors this year, to finish with a three-stroke lead in the final golf grand slam event of the year.
Day, 27, who teed off Sunday with a two-shot lead, played aggressively and never allowed anyone of the contenders to chip off the lead to finish with scores of 68-67-66-67.
The Pinoy golf star thus became the first player to finish a major championship at 20 under, breaking the record set by Tiger Woods in the 2000 British Open when he finished 19 under.
After tapping in his final shot to seal victory on the 18th hole, Day briefly raised his arms skyward as if in thanksgiving, before breaking down in tears as his pregnant wife, Ellie, and son, Dash ran to him in jubilation.
He then hugged his long-time Australian coach and caddie, Colin Swatton.
“I didn’t expect I was going to cry,” Day said. “A lot of emotion has come out because I’ve been so close so many times and fallen short,” Day said later in a TV interview.
“To be able to play the way I did today, especially with Jordan in my group, I could tell that he was the favorite. Just to be able to finish the way I did was amazing.”
Day celebrated his breakout victory by hoisting the coveted Wanamaker Trophy, which goes with the $1.8 million purse, his biggest paycheck on the PGA tour since turning pro in 2006.
Day has won three tournaments this season—the Farmers Insurance Open, the RBC Canadian Open and the 2015 PGA Championship—chalking up more than $6 million so far this year to move to No. 2 on the PGA Tour money list, next only to Spieth.
With the record win, Day overcame all his past failures on the game’s biggest stages—three runner-up finishes and six top-fours in his last 18 starts in majors.
Day’s aggressive play in the past got the better of him, sometimes forcing his hand down the stretch and taking excessive risks instead patiently letting the outcome play itself out.
Day’s frustration was evident at last month’s British Open, where he failed to make a birdie in his last 12 holes and fell one shot short of a playoff. As if this was not enough, his last bid on the 72nd hole fell two inches short of the cup.
But he bounced quickly back from that close shave, flying from Scotland to Canada the next day and winning the Canadian Open the following week. That crucial win proved to be the much-needed break Day needed going into the, PGA Championship, final major tournament of the year.
Probably the most successful ethnic Filipino golfer ever, Day was born on Nov. 12, 1987 in Beaudesert, Queensland. Jason’s father, Alvin, was Australian and his mother, Dening, was from Tacloban, Philippines who moved to Australia in the early 1980s.
In November 2013, Day lost his grandmother, an uncle and six young cousins in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to hit landfall that killed more than 6,000 people and displaced more than 1.4 million others in 17 provinces.
It was Alvin, who died of cancer when Jason was 12, who got his son into golf at very tender age.
His father enrolled Jason as a six-year-old at the local golf club and was allowed to play six holes as a junior at the Beaudesert Golf Club. By the time he was eight, Jason’s family moved to Rockhampton where the golf prodigy was winning tournaments in the city and surrounding districts.
In a previous interview, Day told this writer late last year that he’s confident of eventually becoming world No. 1.
Now ranked third in the world behind American Jordan Spieth and Irishman Rory McIlroy, Day is getting closer to fulfilling this childhood dream.
Palace congratulates Day
Malacañang on Monday congratulated Filipino-Australian golfer Jason Day for winning the 2015 PGA Championship on Sunday (Monday in Manila) in the United States.
In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Filipinos were proud of the Day’s achievement.
“Binabati namin ang Filipino Aussie golfer na si Jason Day sa kanyang tagumpay sa 2015 PGA championship [We congratulate Filipino Aussie golfer Jason Day for winning the 2015 PGA Championship],” he said.
Coloma noted Day’s mother, Dening, hailed from Leyte province. She took care of Day after his father passed away when he was just 12-years-old. They migrated to Australia in the 1980s.
The 27-year-old golfer’s grandmother and seven relatives died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
“Tunay na maipagmamalaki ng Pilipinas ang kampeon na si Jason Day [Filipinos can be truly proud of Jason Day],” Coloma said.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE