The 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional brings mixed memories for Jason Day: poor play during the week, a bogey-free weekend — and then an 8-under-par, runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy.
In seven seasons as a pro, Day has 33 top-10 finishes but just two PGA Tour victories. He has finished second six times.
Day, 26, said his propensity to be the perennial contender — even if it doesn’t always translate to wins — is encouraging, not disappointing.
“I’d love to win more. I think it’s not as easy as the guy was sitting in my spot about 10 minutes ago, as it looked like when he was doing it,” said Day, referring to tournament host Tiger Woods. “It’s very difficult to win.
“I just feel like I’m doing the right things. If I’ve put myself there a ton of times now — well, it’s not a ton — but if I’ve put myself there a few times now, it just shows that I’m doing the right things, and I just need to keep working on those things and keep getting better each week, each year and hopefully it will happen.”
Day’s season started with a win at the Match Play Championship, his first PGA Tour win since the Byron Nelson Championship in 2010.
But a nagging left thumb injury kept him out of competition for six weeks leading up to the Masters, where he finished tied for 20th. Day missed another six weeks and told reporters at the U.S. Open two weeks ago that he tried to return too quickly.
The Australian is slowly working his way up in the world rankings since his return. His fourth-place finish at Pinehurst, where Martin Kaymer won handily, bumped him up to No. 6.
His expectation is to win the Quicken Loans National this weekend, getting back to where he was before the injury.
“I definitely felt I had a chance of getting to that No. 1 spot this year,” Day said. “Just the way I was playing and the way it was trending, I definitely felt I had a really good shot. If I didn’t get injured, I felt like I had a really good shot of getting to No. 1.
“Obviously getting back to No. 6 in the world is pretty special as well. I have to kind of slowly work my way back up there. This would be a good start to win this week but there’s a lot of golf to be played from tomorrow on.”
Tiger Woods and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn were among those visiting the White House on Tuesday evening for an event honoring the 2013 U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams.
Woods was accompanied by Earl Woods Scholarship Program scholar Darion Parker, a Forestville, Md., native and recent Georgetown graduate.
Several players who are not playing at Congressional, including Phil Mickelson, flew into Washington specifically for the event. President Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, addressed the group and both teams spent time in the Oval Office.
This was not Woods’s first White House visit.
“I remember talking to President Obama, and he wanted to talk a little bit about some golf and blah, blah, blah, and we started talking about sports. And I see these other guys in the other room, and they are immaculately dressed. And I said, ‘You know, Mr. President, I think I’d better go.’ He says, ‘Okay, well, I’d like you to meet my Joint Chiefs.’ I’m like, oh, my God. I felt awful that I’m holding up a Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting because he wanted to talk sports.”
Justin Rose won the U.S. Open at Merion last year, then played in the Travelers Championship the following weekend. A day later, he pulled out of this tournament, citing the need to rest before the British Open.
“After the U.S. Open, I wanted to keep my commitment to playing the Travelers Championship and here, then [called] the AT&T,” Rose said. “It became apparent after playing one week immediately after the U.S. Open that if I played again, I was just going to be in some shape to compete at the Open Championship.
“And if I’m honest, I felt like I had a hard time preparing for the Open as it was with everything that happened for me after the U.S. Open. I wasn’t 100 percent ready to play. So that was my reason for pulling out was just to try and give myself half a chance at the Open.”
Rose, who missed the cut at Muirfield last year, repeated a familiar refrain among golfers: This tournament falls in a busy time of year, between the U.S. and British.