Today’s news that Jason Day’s lingering back injury will force him to withdraw from his scheduled World Cup and Australian Open appearances in his homeland are a blow for both the summer of golf and Day himself.
Adam Scott is now left searching for a partner for the World Cup in late November, while both events have lost their drawcard and the first reigning No.1-ranked player to compete in Australia since Tiger Woods. But Day’s reputation stands to suffer as a result of yet another announced-but-aborted trip home. He hasn’t come back to Australia since winning the World Cup with Scott in 2013 due to a combination of health and family issues.
The danger here is that Day risks becoming the current generation’s version of Steve Elkington, another US PGA champion who seldom came home. Elkington’s beef began when he was ignored on promotional posters for the 1995 Australian Open, three months after capturing the PGA Championship, in favour of Norman and John Daly.
Day, we presume, has no such gripe with officials. Which is why it is incumbent upon him to make a trip to Australia before next spring. Why? To restore the faith in Australian golf fans. If Day announces partway through next year that he’s planning to return to Australia at the end of the year, who will believe him? He doesn’t want to be labelled golf’s boy who cried wolf.
“I regret that I will be unable to come home to Australia this year,” Day said today via a statement. “I was looking forward to playing in the Australian Open and teaming up with Adam Scott on one of my favourite courses, Kingston Heath, the following week at the World Cup in Melbourne.
“My plan is to return home to Australia in 2017. My best wishes to all in Sydney at the Open and to Adam and Team Australia in Melbourne at the World Cup.”
“My plan is to return home to Australia in 2017. My best wishes to all in Sydney at the Open and to Adam and Team Australia in Melbourne at the World Cup.” Jason Day
Back issues are serious, no question, and no one would deny the Queenslander the unique and rare privilege of seeing his children enter the world, as was the case with his daughter Lucy last year. These are unfortunate coincidences, but it’s worth remembering that not all our tournaments fall in November and December.
The World Super 6 Perth tournament is scheduled for February 16 to 19. That’s four months from now, which would likely give Day ample time to rest his ailing back. The revamped event clashes with the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, but releases are readily attainable (and Day hasn’t competed at Riviera since 2012, anyway). It would do the Perth tournament – and Day’s reputation – enormous good for the World No.1 to enter, play in a city in his homeland where he hasn’t competed before and just be seen here.
Might doing so go some way to clearing any sense of ‘debt’ he owes Australian golf?
“There’s no question of Jason ‘owing’ us; these are legitimate reasons,” responded Brian Thorburn, the chief executive of the PGA of Australia, when Golf Australia posed the World Super 6 Perth question to him. “He’s had a couple of things in the past with his wife giving birth last year, which was a completely understandable reason. And this is an unavoidable injury, so we understand that and there’s certainly no owing.
“We would like Jason at every golf tournament in Australia. He’s the World No.1, and we will be certainly talking to him about future tournaments for 2017. But I think his priority, you’d imagine, is just on getting his back right and being ready for 2017.”
And what if Day’s back isn’t 100 percent by February? Why not come home anyway, even for a non-playing appearance. Or, wait and contest the 2017 Fiji International, a state Open or PGA – anywhere. Because waiting another year to be sighted in Australia will only do further damage.