HE arguably meant it as a compliment, but with just a few words Jason Day neatly, and devastatingly, summed up why Tiger Woods will begin this week’s US Open ranked 195th in the world.
“Tell you what, if he could get on the fairway, he’d probably be back to where he was,” Day said after nine holes of practice alongside the 14-time major winner at Chambers Bay on Monday. “It’s just ridiculous how good his iron play is right now, it’s really special.”
And Day was not finished there in a long response to one question on Woods in his pre-tournament press conference, hinting that the former world No 1 could be lacking the motivation necessary to “climb Mount Everest again” due to off-course issues and a lack of confidence.
Woods, who admitted to sleepless nights after splitting from girlfriend Lindsey Vonn last month, comes into the year’s second major on the back of the worst score (85) and four-round total (302) of his career in the Memorial Tournament.
World No 10 Day added: “Who knows what’s going on with Tiger right now? We’re friends, but I don’t get into his personal life and I don’t want to. That’s his stuff and he deserves his privacy.
“But when it comes to golf, it’s very difficult because you could have all the tools in the world, but if you really don’t want to be there or if there’s something that’s off course that’s playing on your mind… the game of golf is so mental and, if you don’t have everything in the right order, it’s very difficult to win golf tournaments. I’ve learned that very early.
“It really is amazing that some days you’ll come out and you’ll feel like you can beat anyone, and then some days you come out and you’ve got no confidence in the world and you can’t break an egg with a hammer. Unfortunately, with Tiger, it’s so hard because he’s done what he’s done in the past and everyone is expecting him to do that still. And we put him on such a pedestal that, where is the old Tiger and what’s he going to do? When’s he going to come back? We’re just waiting for him to come back and win those tournaments like it was nothing, hunt down people like he was playing a Wednesday tournament at the country club. But will we see it? I’m not sure.
“It just totally depends on the person, how hard he’s working, because the top guys in the world, they’re working their tails off. It just depends on how much you want it. It’s tough.
“He dominated the game for so long, and that’s what I admire about him the most. He was number one for a very, very long time and it’s hard to do that.
“You’re climbing Mount Everest and he’s fallen off it a couple of times and climbed back up there again. Once people understand how hard it is to climb Mount Everest, it’s hard to do it again. I think if he could straighten out that driver, he’d play phenomenal golf, because his iron play and putting is on point.”
Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, knows he can make history in “many ways” this year and even has one eye on an unprecedented clean sweep of the four major championships.
Spieth is looking to become just the sixth man in history after Craig Wood, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Woods to win the Masters and US Open in the same year.
And the world No 2 can also become the first player since Gene Sarazen in 1922 to win multiple majors aged 21 or younger with victory at Chambers Bay.
“I have a chance to make history in many ways,” said Spieth, who has recorded nine top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.
“But in order to do that, I have to really focus on this week, focus on the major championships and how I’m going to prepare for them. There are certainly a lot of goals left for the year.
“It’s never even crossed my mind to let it kind of sink in that it’s been a great year, and that it would be a great year at the end. If I didn’t do anything the rest of the year, I’d be pretty frustrated at the second half.
“You can’t win a Grand Slam unless you win the first [major], so I’m the only one with that opportunity this year.
“So I’m going to go ahead and focus on this week and see if I can put myself in contention.”