Jason Day: How helping Tiger Woods ended up coming full circle
Redemption stories are abundant in all sports, but they tend to be especially alluring in golf. Watching players break through for the first time, or claw their way back from the depths to the winner’s circle, is a gratifying experience for the viewer. And Jason Day’s victory at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson — his first win in five years — is the most recent example.
The former World No. 1 publicly struggled with his game, mentally and physically, and wondered if perhaps his career would come to a premature end. But an effort to rebuild his swing with instructor Chris Como started yielding results in recent months, culminating in his 13th career victory last week in Texas.
Day is a former PGA champion, notching his first, and to date, only, major win in 2015. That year, Day was at the height of his powers, winning four times in the span of two months and ascending to the top of the World Ranking. It was during this time that Tiger Woods, who was then being coached by Como, approached Day in an effort to fix Woods’ chipping yips. At his pre-tournament press conference at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill on Wednesday, Day relayed the story.
“Tiger was going through the chipping yips, and there’s so many different ways of chipping, and there’s so many different ways of guys chipping. At that moment I was one of the better players in the world, and my short game was kind of at its height,” Day said. “He just wanted to kind of pick my brain. We were going back and forth. I actually probably learned more coming out of that little meeting with Tiger than he learned off me because back then I didn’t really understand how he could feel every joint, every piece of his body move the way that he wanted it to. Like, he could literally feel everything turning and moving and bending. I’m like, man, I just have straight arms, and I just rock it through; you know what I mean?”
Day said he gleaned another unexpected gift from that meeting with Woods: a connection to Como.
“That’s when I met Chris Como for the first time,” he said. “Coming out of that meeting I’m going, ‘There’s something different about that guy.’ He was very quiet, listened very intently about what I had to give, but then had, like, deeper questions about it. When you get to talk to him about the golf swing and you start to kind of break it down with him, then you understand his, like, deeper level of understanding of the golf swing.
“Coming out of that, that’s when I knew, I’m like, hey, at the time I think I was still working with Colin. I’m just like, hey, man, this guy is pretty smart. Then fast forward a few years later. I gave him a call. He was the only guy I wanted to call to see if he could coach me.”
While Woods and Como parted ways at the end of 2017, Day ended up hiring Como at the end of 2020, with a goal of building a swing to keep Day pain- and injury-free. Fast forward nearly three years, and Day is once again a PGA Tour winner, trying to claim his second major championship at Oak Hill this week. The key, he said, is to keep his expectations in check.
“It’s in my nature to expect bigger and better things, so I’m just trying to cool the jets on that and understand that, hey, I’m here at a major week this week, don’t expect too much,” he said. “Obviously you’re playing some good golf; don’t get too far ahead of yourself. But understand that you’ve got to manage the small things that I’ve done so well over the last two years. It’s about the bigger picture, and more of a marathon, not a sprint.”
In golf, and in life.