The one that got away, on the 18th green at the Old Course, provided the impetus Jason Day required to end his major drought and, most recently, take his place at the top of the world rankings.
Day’s putt to enter a play-off at the Open Championship fell short, reducing him to tears of frustration.
The recovery has been quite spectacular. Day’s canter to victory at the BMW Championship on the outskirts of Chicago on Sunday earned the 27-year-old the No1 spot he has coveted for so long.
With four wins from the last six starts, including success at the US PGA Championship, no one can dispute Day’s status as the hottest player in golf. Should he win the FedEx Cup and the $10m bounty that comes with it this weekend at East Lake, Day has a case for upstaging Jordan Spieth as the player of this year.
“This whole summer has been a whirlwind,” Day said. “It’s kind of surreal right now just to think about it. I don’t think it will sink in until I look at the rankings and see my name on top of the list.
“I mean, all the hard work and just knowing there was that belief in there somewhere that I could really believe in myself and understand all this was for a good reason, just to prepare myself for moments like this.
“I’m just rolling with it. I work very hard in the off weeks just to kind of keep where my game is at right now, and the level of confidence that I’m playing with is the highest it’s ever been.”
No wonder. The Australian held a six-shot lead going into the final round at the BMW and won by the same, gaping margin. For the fifth week in a row, world No1 has changed hands, which last occurred in 1997 when Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Ernie Els jousted at the top.
“It’s been very difficult for me to try to downplay getting to No1 because I’ve really wanted to reach this goal for a very long time now,” Day said.
When he was 18, Day publicly asserted that goal, a stance widely portrayed as arrogant. Nine years on, his confidence has been endorsed.
“I’d love to say I told you so but that wouldn’t be very nice,” said Day with a smile. “It’s OK to dream big. It’s OK to say what you want to do. And for people that don’t respect that, then you really don’t need to give them the time. Who am I or who are they to tell you that you shouldn’t be able to do something. To be able to sit up here today, No1 in the world, looking back when I was an 18-year-old kid, very full of confidence, there’s not much I would say.
“I would still thank them because that was the fuel that lit the fire for me, especially with the dedication over these last few years. I know a lot of people were thinking against me on that. I’m glad I accomplished it.”
Day admits FedEx success would trigger debate over player of the year. His aims, though, relate to 2016 and beyond. “I’d love to win all the majors, to get the career grand slam would be fantastic,” he said. “I want to win as many tournaments as I can. I’m just here for this one purpose and that’s to try to get better each every day and try to win as much as I can, while I can. It’s not going to last forever, so I may as well do it quickly.”
This article was written by Ewan Murray, for theguardian.com on Monday 21st September 2015 14.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010