Jason Day hires caddie Williams in bid to unlock potential
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Jason Day has won a major, reached No. 1 in the world and recorded 12 PGA Tour wins already in his career.
That’s not nearly enough to satisfy Day, who believes he has “severely underachieved” and needed to make a change if he wants to achieve his goal of winning all four majors.
So after months of contemplating a caddie change, Day lured Steve Williams out of retirement to carry his bag, starting with the U.S. Open this week.
“I think I’ve underachieved up until now,” Day said Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve got a game that when it’s on, I can win most tournaments. And the big thing for me is to go ahead and believe that and have trust in my abilities that I can do that. And now that I have Steve on the bag, I think hopefully that will flourish and I can make winning more of a habit.”
Williams was the caddie for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 15 major championships, helped Adam Scott win the Masters in 2013, and has also worked for Greg Norman and Ian Baker-Finch during a long career.
Williams last caddied regularly for Scott in 2017 and has been mostly retired since then but decided to come back because he believed in Day’s potential.
“It’s not your local Sunday caddie down at your local club,” Day said. “It was a little bit intimidating to have him on the bag, to be honest. He’s had a lot of great ball-strikers that he’s worked for. ... I was excited and intimidated in the same breath.”
Day won his only major in 2015 at the PGA Championship and won eight titles overall in 2015-16 to reach No. 1 in the world. But he has just two PGA Tour victories since then, prompting his decision to make a change.
“I need to start working harder, and that’s plain and simple,” he said. “And that started with — this is no disrespect to my mates that were on the bag. They were very, very hard workers. They were great. But I think Steve will take me to that next level, and I’m hoping that’s the case.”
Pebble Beach has been a special place for Dustin Johnson ever since he played his first PGA Tour event here in 2008.
Johnson won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am here in 2009-10, posted three other top three finishes in that event, and played an almost impeccable first three rounds the last time the U.S. Open came here in 2010.
But after taking a three-shot lead into the final round, Johnson had a meltdown, starting when he missed the second green from the fairway with a wedge. He had to hit an awkward left-handed shot and ended up with a triple bogey. He dropped three more shots over the next two holes and finished with an 82.
“I played a great round on Saturday,” Johnson said when asked his memories from that tournament. “I remember the golf course, I felt like the setup was fantastic. It played really firm and fast. It was a good week. I played really well. First time having a lead in a major, got off to a fairly good start. I hit two shots on the green on 1, made a nice two-putt. And hit it right down the middle on 2, had a wedge in. And it went downhill from there.”
Two-time defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka made a change of his own heading into the tournament.
After being deluged with text messages and calls from a variety of numbers, Koepka decided it was time to change his on Monday.
“I don’t know if somebody leaked my phone number or what happened, but I got a couple of texts — a bunch of text messages yesterday from some different numbers and a bunch of phone calls,” he said. “So it was probably about time. I’ve had it for about three years, four years. So in major weeks and just about every week now, everybody is texting, asking for different things. It was probably long overdue.”
Ernie Els’ 27th appearance in the U.S. Open is unlike any other he’s had.
Along with getting another chance to play at Pebble Beach, where he finished in the top three in his two previous trips, Els gets to enjoy it with a family member.
Els’ nephew, Jovan Rebula, won last year’s British Amateur to earn entry into his first U.S. Open. Rebula will get to play alongside “Uncle Ernie,” who turns 50 later this year.
“I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that I’d still be playing, and, two, he’d be playing with me at a U.S. Open,” Els said. “It’s fantastic. I wish my sister and family could have been here to see it. But I’m glad to be keeping him company.”
The 21-year-old Rebula just finished his junior year at Auburn. He played his first two PGA Tour events this season, missing the cut at the Masters and again at the Memorial, where he followed up a 6-over 78 in the first round with a 69 in the second.
“He’s starting to hit it past me, finally,” Els said. “So that’s good. He’s really playing well. He’s been working on a lot of things on his swing, and it’s looking fantastic with his coach in Auburn. And I’ve got my eye on him, also. He’s doing really good. He’s played in some professional events now. He had a really good second round at the Memorial a couple of weeks ago. That has given him a bit of confidence out here.”
TIGER ON KD
Tiger Woods knows all about playing through an injury in chase of a championship: He won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on an injured left knee that needed major reconstructive surgery after the tournament.
That gave Woods a special insight into what Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant went through Monday night in the NBA Finals. Durant returned to the floor after missing more than a month with a strained right calf and then suffered a much more serious injury when he hurt the Achilles on the same leg in the second quarter of Golden State’s 106-105 victory at Toronto.
“It was sad,” Woods said. “As athletes we’ve all been there to that spot when you just know it, that something just went, and can’t move, can’t do much of anything. And you can see it on his face, how solemn his face went. He knows it when things pop. You just know.
“And I’ve been there. I’ve had it to my own Achilles. I’ve had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It’s an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That’s the hard part.”