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January 22, 2008

Jason Day


CHRIS REIMER: We want to thank Jason Day for joining us here in the media center. Jason had a great season last year on the Nationwide Tour, became the youngest winner in Nationwide Tour history. Just kind of start off talking about your year on the Nationwide Tour and kind of how you grew as a golfer and person and are preparing for this year.
JASON DAY: I guess I started out with a conditional card. I had really limited starts on the Nationwide Tour. All that I was thinking about is I had to make cuts instead of making money. In my second event I got really ranked, and obviously just coming out to a foreign country, me being from Australia, it was hard for me.
You know, I went through a lot of ups and downs last year. I bought a house, I bought a car, I broke up with my longtime girlfriend, so I went through a lot of stress that way. I kind of worked through it, and I had a fantastic year. I won once and had several Top 10s. I worked pretty hard out there, and obviously I learned a lot about my game and myself. It was a good year for me last year, good learning curve.
CHRIS REIMER: Just talk a little bit about your background, from Australia and kind of how you got into golf.
JASON DAY: My dad gave me a club with a rubber shaft when I was three, and I started with a 3-wood, and that's pretty much how I started. I didn't start until I was about six. Obviously coming from a really poor family, I wasn't gifted with a lot of golf clubs or anything like that. My next-door neighbor gave me some golf clubs that I could use. We moved away, and my dad died when I was 12, and that was a really hard time for us.
Our family kind of split up a bit through that time. Me and my sister kind of went off the rails a little bit. But my mom sent me away to boarding school, and that's where I met my coach, Colin Swatton, and we've been together for about eight years now.
I've been very blessed to meet Colin, and obviously he's been on the bag. He's been on the bag last year, as well. I've had a pretty hard time growing up through my teenage years, but I guess it reflects on the person I am today. I don't take many things for granted. I work pretty hard. I never had many things growing up, so I take everything seriously.

Q. So the moral of the story, you should have broken up with your girlfriend earlier?
JASON DAY: The funny thing is that week, I was running second at Livermore, and we broke up the last day of that tournament, and I went out and shot 80. I should have broke up with her after the tournament. Maybe I could have won it (laughter).

Q. How is the wrist?
JASON DAY: The wrist, yeah, I had a wrist injury at the end of last year. I was out for three and a half months. I had a cortisone injection two and a half months ago. The way I injured it was I was boxing. Maybe there's no more boxing for me in my long career. So I guess the wrist is really fine. It's fine now. It's 100 percent. I'm just looking forward to a good season.

Q. Did you say boxing?
JASON DAY: Yeah, boxing.

Q. Boxing with somebody else in the ring or hitting a heavy bag?
JASON DAY: No, just soft side. I was just hitting some bags.

Q. A lot of people have talked about your game for a couple years. What are your expectations for this year?
JASON DAY: I give myself a hard time if I'm not playing well. You know, I missed the cut at the Sony, and I gave myself a really hard time, so I went back to Orlando and I practiced straight away. I didn't stop all week. My expectations, I have really high expectations of myself. I guess that's probably a good thing because that's probably why I work so hard.
You know, this year I'd at least like to win sooner or later. It really doesn't worry me as long as I'm working towards that. I just want to stay consistent and make sure that I improve, as well, as a person. Obviously I want to make friends out here, and I just want to have a good time. Who wouldn't here on the PGA TOUR, earning money playing golf for a living? So I'm pretty happy out here.

Q. Fellow Aussies out here Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott have been spoken of as the next Greg Norman. Do you embrace that sort of challenge, that sort of expectation?
JASON DAY: Yeah, apparently all the media have touted me as the next big thing coming out of Australia. There's a lot of pressure with that. If I stay with my goals, if I work hard towards what I want to achieve, then hopefully one day I can be No. 1. Obviously Tiger Woods is No. 1 now; he's the benchmark. Whether it takes me five years or 20 years, I would like to hopefully one day achieve that spot. I'm still going to work hard, it doesn't matter who he is. I respect Tiger so much. He's changed my life in many ways than anyone could have foreseen.
There's a lot of pressure with that, but I'm just going to keep practicing hard, see what happens.

Q. Were you surprised at all the attention that came as a result of you saying something, that you were going to, "take down Tiger"? I don't know if those were the exact words, but were you surprised at all the attention that created?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I didn't want to create too much attention. It was just me -- I want to take down Tiger. He's the No. 1 guy in the world. But like I said, it's either if it takes me five years or 20 years. I've got goals that I want to achieve. Who doesn't want to become the No. 1 golfer in the world? Some guys might be out here just to make some money, but I've always dreamed and it's always been my goal since I was a little kid that I want to become the No. 1 golfer in the world.
That's probably obviously the same as Tiger when he was in my spot. You can't say to anyone that you can't think that or say that because that's what they want to do, and that's their dream. You can't obviously go to someone else in the crowd here and say, you know what, why did you want to become a writer, because you want to be better then anyone else? You've got to fulfill your dreams, and that's it.

Q. Along those lines, though, you know how you say it and you know the context and kind of how earnest you are about it, whereas if you see it in print, it looks like you're bragging and you're kind of cocky about it. Does that concern you, kind of knowing where you're coming from, because having talked to you you're pretty level-headed and you're not bragging necessarily, but you're being sincere about it. Do you worry about just being perceived as kind of this cocky kid?
JASON DAY: You know, it doesn't worry me. I know the people that love me the most know who I am, and I'm sure that people that finally come up to me and approach me know what kind of a person I am.
Obviously the media, well, some of the prints that have come out have given me a false sense of who I am, and that's -- people kind of take it the wrong way.
Tiger is Tiger, and you can't deny that. He is the greatest golfer.
Obviously if I work towards that and hopefully overcome that and become No. 1, then that's been my goal. But at the moment a lot of people are seeing me as an arrogant, confident kid. It doesn't worry me. I'm not out here to express that. I'm just out here to do a job and try and practice hard and win tournaments. That's all I'm trying to do.

Q. So when you're playing in a tournament with Tiger, are you intimidated by him, or is there just a respect level, or do you think you can compete with him?
JASON DAY: I respect him a lot. You know, obviously he's -- I'm 20, he's 32 or something. He's got a lot of years on me. No, he was in my position when he was my age. I respect him so much because when I was 14, 15, I read a book on him, and my life was going pretty in the wrong direction, you know what I mean? I read a book on him, and he's changed my life. First time I meet him, I've got to thank him for that.

Q. But you wouldn't be intimidated competing against him?

Q. You spoke earlier of going off the rails a little bit in your teenage years. Do you have any particular regrets? And do you think your tough childhood has made you hungrier to win?
JASON DAY: No regrets. You know, I did a lot of stupid things when I was little. Obviously getting into a lot of fights and drinking underage is not the right thing to do. I see that now. If I talked to any kids doing that right now I'd tell them to go the other way, try to be a better person, try to be nice so people will respect you for that.
But yeah, I don't really regret anything. And it has made me into a better person. Obviously meeting up with my coach in school, he's changed my life, as well. He's fit in as a father figure for me. I'm much more mature than my 20 years.

Q. So the key was -- what flipped? What turned it around, going to that boarding school and meeting your coach?
JASON DAY: After I read that book, I woke up at 5:30 every morning to go practice, and I didn't stop all through high school, and I still do it sometimes now. But these days I've got the whole day instead of school. Obviously I was practicing then and I had to go to school. Now I wake up at 7:00 o'clock and go to golf at 8:00 o'clock and don't come back until about 4:00 or 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon. That's changed.
I worked so hard in my high school years, and obviously to have a good coach that's level-headed with me all the time, that helped me a lot. He's gone through a lot of life experiences, and it's the sort of life experiences that I always go back to him and ask him, what did you do in this situation, and he always told me how to go about that.

Q. What was your day like before you read that book?
JASON DAY: Well, I remember the first time I met Colin, we exchanged a few words, and I wasn't listening to anyone. I didn't care. Like when you're 13 and your dad just died of cancer, well, pretty much they just said that -- my dad came back from the doctor, and they said -- they'd given him two months to live. It breaks your heart.

Q. Anthony Kim last week was talking about a big change from last year to this year and just what kind of things he learned last year. One of them was schedule and just trying not to play too much golf. He has kind of an outside influence that has helped him kind of slow down and kind of focus, and I'm wondering if you have that, somebody that's warned you of such things like trying to take better care of your time and scheduling and other things that the jump from the Nationwide to the PGA TOUR will bring.
JASON DAY: I guess that's maybe why the Nationwide was to good to me. I didn't play many events. I played 19 events last year obviously due to a wrist injury late in the year.
I did go through -- I don't like playing too many tournaments in a row. I only like playing two or three in a row. After that I get really burned out and I start hitting some stupid shots out there that I shouldn't be doing. My concentration, my focus goes out the door.
I guess last year was a good learning curve for me. Through that, obviously staying patient on the golf course. I won once last year, and I wasn't actually running away with it. I had to birdie the last hole to win the event. Just being in that moment makes you want to do it even more. That's probably what the biggest thing is.

Q. Tiger had Mark O'Meara to kind of walk him through that first year definitely. Do you have anybody out here that's kind of taken you under their wing that's on TOUR?
JASON DAY: Aaron Baddeley came up to me at the Sony Open. He gave me his number and said, if there's anything that you need, don't hesitate to call. I thought that was really awesome of Aaron, too. There's a bunch of nice guys out here. But I haven't really -- I'm friends with most of the guys out here, but I kind of keep to myself and try and work at it because I've got a routine in place that I used last year and it worked last year, and I'm going to keep with that. As long as I'm comfortable in my surroundings, I can hopefully come out with a win.

Q. What year did you win Junior World? What year was that?

Q. And that's in June and July, so you saw the golf courses like they'll probably be for the U.S. Open. Can you compare the two differences between what you probably played today and what you think they'll probably be in June?
JASON DAY: Tighter fairways, thicker rough and faster greens pretty much, plus all the millions of people that are going to be watching. You know, it's easy to say that, and when it comes to U.S. Open time, if I ever get to play, I know I'm going to be very nervous playing because of how many people that will be watching and how intimidating the course can be. It's very long, and you get in that rough and it's very thick.

Q. Three and a half years from Junior World to now at this site. I mean, I can't think of anybody who's done that. How incredible is that to you when you think about it?
JASON DAY: Every year it seems like I keep improving and a person and as a golfer. Three and a half years ago I was sitting down just after the '04 World Junior, I was sitting down with Colin, and him saying I would be here in three and a half years, I wouldn't believe that at all. I've had two of the greatest last years of my life. I had a great amateur season before my first year of turning professional obviously, played some tournaments on the PGA TOUR, which went well. Last year was fantastic, and this year I'm just starting.
Every year has been a really good confidence boost and a positive for me. I'm just pretty happy to be where I am at the moment, and everything has been a positive for me.

Q. What do you consider your strength of your game, and what do you really lean on? And where do you still need to make strides to get where you want to go?
JASON DAY: You know, I hit the ball a fair way. I've got to straighten out my driver a little bit. It's been a bit wobbly over the last couple of weeks. But I putt really well.
The things that I need to improve in is probably around the greens, like in thick rough, you know, trying to get it close to the hole, bunkers, wedges. 150 yards and in, I've got to improve that because me and my coach Colin, we're very big on stats. Last year from 150 yards and in we were averaging like eight or nine times a round, and if we can at least birdie half or maybe more, if you think about it, if you minimize the mistakes, you're going to be winning every tournament out there.
CHRIS REIMER: One of his strengths, also, is his work ethic. I was a media official on the Nationwide Tour last year. He's not lying; he's the first on the range and the last to leave. He's notorious for his Tuesday workouts.

Q. What was the most valuable lesson you learned on the Nationwide Tour?
JASON DAY: Patience. You know, I had a lot of starts in the final round before I actually won. That was in the leaders' group. I was out there and I'd try to win straight away, and you can't do that. I went out a couple of times and shot a pretty bad score. I'd always go back after each round and have a look at what I can improve on.
You know, the last round that I won in Cleveland was -- it was just a perfect ball-striking round. Wherever I needed to hit it, I hit it. I left myself great chances for birdies. So obviously the more greens I hit out there, the more opportunities I had.
The biggest thing for me was I stayed patient. My emotions stayed level, and I didn't get hot or cold, which was good. Obviously with that in my head I'm going to try to do that this year, and if it happens for me, it happens. But I'll still be working at it.

Q. You've been saying "we" a lot, or "my coach and I." Do you sort of approach this as a team thing almost?
JASON DAY: Oh, yeah. We've been together for eight years. He's been coaching me since I was 12. That just surprises me actually when you said "we" because I didn't think of that as a team. I've always -- obviously we're a team, but I thought I was just saying "I," but obviously I'm saying "we" now.
CHRIS REIMER: Jason, thanks for joining us. Good luck this week.

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