Jason Day’s first attempts to drive the 12th green at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass didn’t meet with much success.
In fact, he went 0 for 10 at the reconfigured par-4 during the 12th Hole Charity Shootout on Tuesday, a variation on the annual event that usually had area charities picking a PGA Tour player or other celebrity to take a shot at the 17th hole’s Island green to earn a $10,000 donation from The Players Championship.
But Day, the defending Players champion, made it right for giving his partners all manners of shots from bunkers, off banks, from the back of the green and in one case, from 40 yards in front. After Klauk was presented with the over-sized check for his charity, Day announced that he would donate $5,000 to each of the 10 charities involved.
“I didn’t drive it that well for everyone,” Day said.
But Day wasn’t left out, either. The Players made a $5,000 donation to his Brighter Day Foundation, so everyone went home happy.
It was literally a sunny Day as he made his first appearance since his victory in 2016, a week in which Day matched the course record of 63 in the first round and went on to become the first wire-to-wire Players champion since Hal Sutton in 2000.
“It was quite a special week last year,” Day said. “I had not played too well around here but I was coming off a tremendous run, winning at Bay Hill [the Arnold Palmer Invitational] and the [Dell] Match Play and I was playing really great golf.”
Day ascended to No. 1 on the world golf rankings, where he remained until Dustin Johnson won the Genesis Open last month. During a 29-tournament period in 2015 and 2016, Day won seven times, had 16 top-10s, with seven of the top-10s coming in majors and The Players.
Changing the 12th hole to a driveable par-4, aesthetic changes made between the sixth and seventh holes, renovations made to the practice areas and a new entrance to the course that dramatizes the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse are just some of the new wrinkles that fans at The Players will see.
Day said the 12th hole will be a key element for any back-nine rally and predicted that many of the pros will attempt to get to the green via the risk-reward tee shot.
“The changes at Nos, 12, 6 and 7 make it more exciting,” he said. “Leads can change quickly. It’s what the fans want to see … not so much what the players want but it’s what they want to see.”
Day hasn’t won since The Players but he went on to post top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and the PGA. Later in the season he had to withdraw from the final two FedEx Cup playoffs with a back injury, and after tying for fifth at Pebble Beach earlier this year, he was unable to play in last week’s World Golf Championship in Mexico City because of an ear infection and flu he caught from his children.
However, Day will be ready to defend his title at Bay Hill next week and at the Match Play in Austin, Texas the week after.