PGA Tour

Day sets out to defend PGA crown

2016-07-22 10:58
jason day, golf, us open
Jason Day (Getty Images)

Springfield - Moving the 98th PGA Championship two weeks after the British Open to accommodate golf's Rio Olympic return has allowed several favorites to quickly try and move on from disappointments at Royal Troon.

Australia's world No 1 Jason Day, who will defend his first major title this week at Baltusrol, shared 22nd at the British Open. He has won seven times in the past year but still seeks more major mastery.

"It does free you up," Day said of winning a major. "Because you don't want that tag of 'best player without a major' and I had that tag for awhile. And I don't anymore.

"It has been a crazy last 12 months. I think the next step for me is to go, 'OK, how many can I win now?' and be able to shoot a goal for maybe the career Grand Slam, even though it is tough to get that, but that's a good goal to have."

Third-ranked Jordan Spieth shared 30th at Royal Troon and 37th at the US Open. The US star has struggled since a back-nine meltdown cost him the Masters crown last April.

"If you win a major, it would be pretty amazing," Spieth said. "Just getting three majors in my career would be special. That week at PGA Championship alone could become one of the most special weeks I've ever had, so that's what we're focused on, grinding for that."

World No 2 Dustin Johnson, who won his first major at last month's US Open, has 13 top-10 finishes in 30 major starts, including a share of ninth at Royal Troon. He will try to be the first man to win the US Open and PGA in the same year since Jack Nicklaus in 1980.

"When I'm teeing it up in a major, I'm not still trying to get that first one and I know what it takes," Johnson said. "I know I've got what it takes to get it done. That obviously gives me a lot of confidence when I'm out there playing.

"Winning, it has definitely increased my confidence and maybe even relaxed me more."

And then there is Phil Mickelson, the 46-year-old US left-hander who won the last PGA staged at Baltusrol in 2005. He was a heartbreaking runner-up to British Open winner Henrik Stenson, losing a two-man duel for the Claret Jug to the Swede.

"I've got a lot of special memories going back to Baltusrol in '05, and probably that we don't have a month to wait between majors is a good thing for me," Mickelson said. "I'll try to look at the positives and take that into Baltusrol and keep my game sharp."

Stenson, who had three runner-up efforts and six third places in majors, vows to be on his game even after his long-sought major breakthrough.

"I'm going to be out there trying my hardest in the PGA," he said.

'IT WILL BE ODD'

Day won last year's PGA at Whistling Straits with a major record of 20-under par and is the tour's hottest player over the past year.

"I always thought I could play golf on a level like this," Day said. "I can't get too complacent with where I'm at. I'm currently ranked the best player in the world, but I need to work harder than I ever have before to keep that spot."

Spieth hopes momentum will ease the tension of two majors in such a short span.

"It will be odd to play two majors in three weeks. I'm sure that will be a different feeling," he said. "But it's a good feeling if you can ride any kind of momentum and I think we can."

Baltusrol's par-70 layout could be just the tonic Mickelson needs to forget the British Open defeat, his 11th second-place finish in a major.

"It was probably the best I've played and not won. I think that's probably why it's disappointing," Mickelson said. "I played what I feel was well enough to win and yet I got beat by three strokes."

'EACH ONE MEANS A LOT'

"It's not like I have decades left of opportunities to win majors, so each one means a lot to me. I'm happy with the way I played, but even more disappointed that it wasn't enough."

Spieth still sees Mickelson as a threat whenever he plays.

"He has the utmost confidence that he can beat anybody on any given day. Why wouldn't he? He's a legend," Spieth said.

"I love how confident he is in the way he strikes the ball. His hand-eye coordination is as good as anyone's at anything in the world."

Read more on:    pga tour  |  phil mickelson  |  jordan spieth  |  jason day  |  golf
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