What Jason Day’s playoff victory teaches us about golf at large

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As is so often the case, when a golf tournament playoff goes fully into a Monday, the results can be rather anti-climactic. Even if the tournament has gone to multiple playoff holes on the Sunday, it seems Monday playoffs rarely live up to the hype.

Such was the case with Jason Day’s recent victory in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South. Day defeated Alex Noren when Noren’s second shot to the 18th green landed on the green’s banked fronting and promptly rolled back into a pond.

Noren’s aquatic adventure made for a bogey 6; Day followed with a layup second, a perfect wedge to two feet, and a tap-in birdie for the win — his 11th as a PGA Tour pro.

Why was this victory special, though?

What it took for Day to get back to pinnacle of his game. Let me explain:

A year ago, Day was the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Entering this tournament? 14th.

What happened?

As quoted in Golf Digest, “I know that last year wasn’t the greatest season for me,” he said. “I had stuff off course that was a little distracting with my mother obviously having cancer. It’s special, because I worked very hard in the off-season to try to get back to this position.”

Elite golf so often comes down to mental focus and the game in your own head; no one blames even a great champion for struggling to concentrate when your mother is battling cancer. To complicate matters, he has been battling chronic back pain.

But, he set his sights on making a full-throated comeback in 2018. So what did he do? He put in workin the offseason to get himself back into peak playing form.

That’s the difference at the highest levels of sport — the distance between the best and the rest often comes down to who will put in the hours, the effort, the grind in the offseason. The separation is just too slim between the top players, but that slim disparity makes a world of difference. Being a champion and almost a champion are very different things. Day says as much:

“This is the start of the road to get myself back to No. 1,” he said. “I’ve got to shoot for that goal because if I don’t shoot for that goal, then I’m not working hard enough and I’m not doing the right things. I need to fight and have a goal for something, and that’s such a hard accomplishment, it always keeps motivating and going along.”

What does that mean for you and your golf course?

The difference between someone playing your course or joining your club comes down to the little things. You have to do the work to earn your players. But, you have a shortcut to the front when it comes to your greens:

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