Jason Day says he's 'severely underachieved' and hopes Steve Williams is the answer

Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Jason Day says he's 'severely underachieved' and hopes Steve Williams is the answer

USGA

Jason Day says he's 'severely underachieved' and hopes Steve Williams is the answer

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Jason Day has been stuck in a sort of gray area for a while now.

The former world No. 1 definitely isn’t in a slump, but he’s not exactly thriving either, at least not enough for his lofty expectations, so he came to Pebble Beach with a new approach and some strong self-criticism ahead of the 119th U.S. Open.

He has elite talent, 12 wins, one major title and a resume the bottom half of the PGA Tour pecking order would kill for. The problem is eight of those wins, including a PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, came in a two-year stretch from 2015-16.

So Day enters this week committed to getting more out of his talent, and he hired Tiger Woods’ former caddie Steve Williams to help him figure it out. Asked to assess his career to date during the pre-Open build-up this week, he painted dreary picture.

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“Severely underachieved, I think,” Day said. “And granted, I have to work on a few things mentally and physically with regards to my golf game. But I think I’ve underachieved up until now. I feel like I’ve got a game that when it’s on, I can win most tournaments. And the big thing for me is to go ahead and believe that and have trust in my abilities that I can do that. And now that I have Steve on the bag, I think hopefully that will flourish and I can make winning more of a habit.”

Eight of Jason Day’s 12 wins, including a PGA Championship, came in a two-year stretch from 2015-16. (Photo: Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The way Day tells it, he was the one who had to persuade Williams out of retirement and convince him he should take the gig. They’re starting together at Pebble Beach but it’s a full-time job, and Day said Williams is already pushing him to work harder like his former players including Woods and Adam Scott.

Day talked about Williams like he was hiring a coach or motivational speaker more so than a caddie, and he talked about making more sacrifices with his personal time in order to unlock his true potential.

“He thinks that I’m an underachiever, and he wants me to win a lot more tournaments,” Day said. “I think that he has the ability to get me through the line a lot more and being able to turn my game around. … I think he’s got the formula to be able to hopefully get me across the line a lot more and win some more tournaments. And even so, I’m talking about major championships. I’m not talking about just regular Tour events. I want to win more majors.”

Williams was on Woods’ bag for 13 of his 15 career major wins and also won the 2013 Masters with Scott. He and Woods were not on good terms after they separated in 2011, but Williams spoke highly of Woods after he won the Masters last April and Woods was complimentary if not overly sentimental about his time with Williams when asked this week.

“Stevie has been around for a very long time, well before my career,” Woods said. “Obviously we won a bunch of tournaments together. He’s got a wealth of knowledge. And I think Jason is trying to tap into that and trying to turn his year around.”

Day’s results haven’t been bad this season with five top-10s, including a T-5 at the Masters, and he won twice last year. But when you get that taste of true greatness with a major victory and ascension to the top of the world rankings, top-10s don’t get you out of bed in the morning.

After tinkering with different approaches in his goal to get back to the top, Day made his most drastic change yet by bringing Williams on board. Starting this week, we’ll see if it helps get him where he thinks he should be in life and golf.

“I told Steve, look, my goal is to get back to No. 1 in the world. But I want to do everything I possibly can to get there,” Day said. “If I need to do whatever you need to tell me, I’ll do it. He said that being No. 1, there’s a lot of sacrifice that comes along with that. And we both understand what that means. So I’m very excited about this week and the potential of many years to come.”

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