Tour Confidential: Is Jason Day Now The Player of the Year?

September 21, 2015

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Jason Day won the BMW Championship and leapfrogged Rory Mcllroy and Jordan Spieth for the top spot in the World Rankings. What’s your take on Day’s run of four wins in six tournaments? We asked a few weeks ago, but we’ll ask again: Is Day making a serious run at taking Player of the Year honors away from Jordan Spieth?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Day’s run is something I’d never thought I’d see: he’s playing like Tiger did for spells in his prime. Except that Tiger did it about a half-dozen times over the course of a decade. It’s impressive, and he’s shown more golf skill than I ever knew he had. If you are a Tour player, you might very well vote for him as player of the year. If you’re a fan – and most of us are fans – it has to be Spieth. Majors are majors for a reason.

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, SI Golf Group (@JeffRitter): Four wins in six events, with a major tossed in there, is rarefied air. Because Spieth’s major run was so special, I still think Day has to win next week to make POY a real debate. That it’s a debate at all speaks to just how great Day has been lately.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@JoePassov): Jason Day is the best golfer on the planet RIGHT NOW. His closing run, and his consistency in the majors (with a win) would have earned him POY honors in many years. The Player of the Year for this year, however, is Jordan Spieth. Two majors, whiskers away from two others, two other wins and a bunch of second place finishes in Texas…All things being fairly equal, including Day with one more win (pending the Tour Championship), Spieth’s two majors trumps Day’s one. 

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Sorry, Jason, but two majors and two near-misses beats one major and potpourri. Spieth locked up the Player of the Year a long time ago. It’s over.

Brendan Mohler, assistant editor, Day’s recent run is nothing short of incredible. If not for his unfortunate bout with vertigo at the U.S. Open, this season may have been defined by an entirely different narrative where Day is the undisputed Player of the Year. But unless he wins next week at East Lake, he shouldn’t be heavily considered for POY. But as the likely FedEx Cup champ, I wouldn’t be surprised if the PGA Tour gives Day the honors in a misguided attempt to add value to the playoffs.

2. One week after committing to the in October, Tiger Woods announced he had a second microdiscectomy surgery on Wednesday and hopes to return to competitive golf in “early 2016.” What do you make of the news, and what do you now expect from a 40-year-old Tiger next season? 

VAN SICKLE: It’s funny how Tiger went from telling us how fine his back was and on Friday committing to and then, within five days, has back surgery. Maybe if Tiger hadn’t been untruthful so often in the past, the conspiracy theories wouldn’t be growing already. I like how the release called it “a second successful surgery.” If the first surgery was successful, why did he need another one? I was bullish on Tiger at the end of this season. I thought he made some good progress. No expectations for him now. He’ll have to get healthy first, then we’ll see.

PASSOV: Has anyone been right about a single Tiger prediction in the past 12 months? All I can say is that at least he knows exactly what he’ll have to go through and what it will take to get to a competitive level. That will give him a better head start than what he opened 2015 with, so at least there will be some confidence going forward. I just don’t think he’s in the same league right now as the new Big 3, so the standards will have to be adjusted accordingly.

BAMBERGER: I think we’ll see more of Tiger at home than ever before. Kids, his nightclub, his pals like Michael Jordan, his boat. He has to be weary of everything that comes with being a professional golfer, at least the way he went about it.

MOHLER: Tiger’s outlook for 2016 was grim even before he announced the back surgery. Anything but the lowest expectations for him from here on out can’t be justified. It almost seems like Woods has actually realized that fact too—it’s rare that anything but bad news is unveiled on a Friday evening.

RITTER:  Given that Woods committed to playing the Frys about a week earlier, this was a shocker. You have to assume his timetable is to be ready for the Masters, but at this point it’s tough to expect much at Augusta, or all of next season, since so much of his time will be spent on rehab rather than practice. 


3. Team USA rallied from a 10-6 deficit during Sunday singles and won the Solheim Cup 14.5-13.5 over Team Europe, but saw controversy and drama emerge on the final day. The U.S.’s Alison Lee picked up a short putt she thought was given to her, only to have Europe’s Suzann Pettersen claim otherwise, giving Europe the hole and eventually the match. Who was to blame for the dustup? 

PASSOV: Europeans for sure. At the end of the day, the Solheim Cup may be a competition, but it’s an exhibition, it’s match play, and sportsmanship should always come first – taking a cue from Jack Nicklaus’ exemplary concession to settle the 1969 Ryder Cup. And, under the circumstances, with a flat, 16-inch putt to come, with the other team already on their way to the next hole, the circumstances dictated more fair play than was shown here. Suzann Pettersen, captain Carin Koch: there’s no reason to hide behind the rules here. Bad form. If you have to win this way in this particular competition, you’re misguided as to what this event is all about.

BAMBERGER: Well, it has to be Lee, if Pettersen never said it was good. You just can’t pick up a putt, period. The whole matter lacked any sense of grace, and Pettersen probably should have let it go with a warning – these are good will games – but Lee did what you cannot do.

RITTER: Lee made a mistake, but Pettersen probably could’ve handled it with a bit more grace. Still, with one hole left in an all-square match, good manners are a difficult ask. Here’s the thing: even if Pettersen said, “I didn’t give you the putt, but go ahead and replace it,” it wouldn’t work, as golf isn’t a game of re-dos. Lee and the U.S. should thank Suzann for galvanizing the squad for the singles session.

MOHLER: As one of the leaders of the European team, Pettersen failed to exemplify a defining characteristic of a great leader—sportsmanship. Lee learned a valuable lesson along the way, but Pettersen unfairly took advantage of her rookie opponent. The two-time major champ is lucky that the point she earned with Charley Hull over Lee and Lincicome did not determine the final outcome or Pettersen would have been more publicly exposed for the misstep.

VAN SICKLE: Both sides were at fault. Alison Lee, you never, never, never pick up a ball unless you know it’s been conceded. If you don’t know, then ask. Suzann Pettersen, it’s bad form to walk off a green if you’re not conceding the last putt. Based on Charley Hull’s reaction, she was in tears, she knew the Euros were in the wrong. But it takes two to screw up a match play situation like this. Both sides are wrong. And it probably spurred the U.S. win, so, it’s history now.

4. Day, Spieth and McIlroy have emerged as the top tier of the PGA Tour. Between those three, whose game is better when it’s at its best? 

VAN SICKLE: I thought Spieth’s ability to get the ball in the hole made him the world’s best, but Day’s short game and his putting have been almost the equal of that. Plus, he drives it as long and as straight as McIlroy. If Day can sustain the way he’s been playing, and I think he can, I believe I have changed my mind and switched to Day. It’s going to be fun as hell watching these three guys for the next decade, I hope.

BAMBERGER: McIlroy. He drives it like Norman in his prime and hits irons like Sergio in his and can ride a wave like Tiger. Not taking anything away from the other two, but McIlroy has the most speeds.

RITTER: All have demonstrated the extra gear that wins tournaments by large margins. Rory is the only one with runaway victories in multiple majors, so I’d give him the edge for now.

MOHLER: This is tough to answer confidently without really having seen Day and McIlroy go at it at their best. Spieth is probably the most consistent of the three, but he lacks the length of McIlroy and Day that can be discounted as an advantage. I tend to still side with McIlroy mainly because we’ve seen his best golf more than just for a single stretch. But Day can change that by picking off another major or two in 2016 in runaway fashion.

PASSOV: I’ll take a healthy Rory McIlroy, mostly because his effortless power, a la Sam Snead, gives him the appearance of being in total control, while dominating at the same time. Yet, it seems like an awfully long time ago when Rory was dominating. That’s my answer as to whose game is better. As far as who is the better player when they’re all at their best, how can you go against Spieth when he’s chipping and putting at his best? He’s otherworldly as far as that goes – and is the class of the bunch between the ears as well.


5. In last week’s SI Golf+, Cameron Morfit makes the case that Jay Haas has the worst job in sports: the USA’s captain for a team event. What do you think is the worst job in golf?

RITTER: Donald Trump’s caddie. Has to be tough to loop for a player whose catchphrase is “You’re Fired.”

VAN SICKLE: The guy who has to clean out the cups on that course in Norway that’s been repeatedly victimized by an intruder pooping in them at night. Next worst: web editor who has to read our raw, uncut stories.

BAMBERGER: Being Fred Couples’s archivist.

PASSOV: How about being Haas’s assistant captain? I think back to the 1997 Ryder Cup, when Miguel Angel Jimenez served as non-playing assistant captain to Seve Ballesteros at Valderrama. One of his tasks was to carry and distribute bananas to European team members. On another occasion, Seve summoned him to a 4:30 a.m. pairings meeting. After several mostly mute minutes, Seve said, “Now you can go to bed again. I have done the pairings.” 

MOHLER: Cam hit it on the head. But being the Presidents Cup captain is a much worse and more thankless job than captaining the Ryder Cup. The next captain to lead Team USA to a Ryder Cup victory will go down as a hero, while the next American man to win the Presidents Cup while at the helm (which I don’t think will be Haas this year) can’t do much better than to fade off into distant memory.

6. With the finale of the FedEx Cup this week, who is your pick to win the playoffs and pocket the $10 million payout?

VAN SICKLE: These crazy-good wins have to be taking something out of Day, who would otherwise be the obvious choice. I’ll go with Rickie Fowler, who’s been playing good golf and maybe is a little more comfortable on the bermuda of East Lake than Day will be.

BAMBERGER: Jason Day, jogging to the finish line.

RITTER: Only a sucker would bet against Day right now. Good thing I’m here. I’ll take Spieth to win East Lake and the $10 mil.

MOHLER: Jason Day is top five on tour in each of the following stats: driving distance, strokes gained tee-to-green, strokes gained putting, holes per eagle, birdie average, scoring average and scrambling—and that’s for the season, not just his last six events. East Lake fits Day’s game nicely; he has two top-6 finishes there since 2011. With the way he’s played recently it’s a shame that the FedEx Cup trophy isn’t guaranteed to be his, but I think he’ll still get it done.

PASSOV: How can anybody bet against Jason Day? He fares well here, with a T4 last year, so even if East Lake isn’t exactly a bomber’s paradise, Day is simply that good. Spieth did nail down a T2 as a rookie here in 2013, but I’m betting that Day has enough gas left in the tank, given how he lapped the field this week without much stress, to run the table. And I take honors for the all-cliche performance of the week. 

The Tour Confidential roundtable continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.