WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Jason Day gets advice almost daily from swing coaches, agents, financial advisors and even fans. But there’s one motto that stands out to the Australian golfer more than most.
“Happy wife, happy life, mate,” he said.
So with a little prodding from his wife, Ellie, Day, the world’s No. 7-ranked golfer, officially announced his commitment Tuesday to play in the 2014 Greenbrier Classic, which will be held June 30 through July 6 on The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC Course. The two-time PGA Tour winner joined two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson on the list of early commitments for year No. 5 of the PGA Tour FedEx Cup event.
“My wife was really pushing me to come here and play, because she wants to get into the spa,” said Day Tuesday, on hand at The Greenbrier for the annual Greenbrier Classic media day. “You can thank her for that when she comes.”
While the family atmosphere has lured many to the event — including Watson, who liked the facility so much he built a home there following his first appearance last year — Day said it wasn’t a difficult sell for him, even without the family component.
The Old White TPC, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, was as big a draw as anything. The classic C.B. Macdonald design provides a challenge unique on the PGA Tour.
“We typically don’t get to play many old school golf courses,” said Day, who has a son, Dash, who will celebrate his second birthday in a couple weeks. “We play so many different modern courses. Nothing is as pretty as this. There’s nothing better than to be able to play a tournament here.
“The field every year is tough, and the course is tough. I’m really looking forward to coming and competing against the best players in the world. Hopefully I can hold the trophy on Sunday.”
The trip won’t be all business for Day, though. He expressed excitement about the off-road driving and shooting activities offered on the property — although he questioned what his agent would think of those pursuits — and said he’ll approach the tournament a little differently than most.
“I think I have to allow myself to do some things,” he said. “It’s something you just can’t pass up. During a tournament week, I’m normally down to business, because I want to play well. But I definitely have to explore a few options.”
More than anything, though, Day will be happy to explore The Old White TPC — or any course, for that matter.
He’s played in just five events this year, battling a nagging thumb injury.
When he’s played, he’s played well — winning the HANDA World Cup of Golf on Nov. 24 and capturing the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on Feb. 23 — but he’s played just three times since March. After finishing tied for 20th at the Masters in early April, Day didn’t return to the course again until last week’s Memorial Tournament, where he finished tied for 37th with a 3-under-par 285.
“It’s just good to be back and be able to swing again,” he said. “It was getting really frustrating there for a second.
“Last week was a great week for me. It was a little disappointing, because I didn’t play that great in the final round. But I was just happy to be out playing again.”
Now it’s about playing the way he wants to play.
“I’ve heard you can get up to 20,000 people out here each day,” said Day, who turned professional in 2006 after a quick rise up the golfing ranks. “With that amount of eyes watching you, you definitely don’t want to make a fool of yourself. I think competing on courses like this is a grind, and I am a player that likes tough courses.
“I watch it every year when I’m not playing. Being 2,000 feet above see level, there’s definitely some tricks to the course. There’s a lot of slope here. There has to be some tricks to the greens. When I come in town to prepare, I’m going to open up to the locals to get as much knowledge as I can.”
Greenbrier owner and tournament chairman Jim Justice was the first to give Day a few pointers, telling him to just let the course come to him. Justice, who said he’s played the course 500,000 times, is confident that Day will find success among the hills.
“I think he’s got a real shot,” he said. “Who knows if he’s not our next Tiger Woods? He may be. He’s really special. He’s a heck of a player. And he can play when the flag goes up.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH