In relative terms, Day has a fragile psyche and an acknowledged deficiency in the work ethic he needs to remain among golf’s elite. The Australian pro, who earned his only major title in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, needed an external catalyst, and Williams was the ideal choice.
Though Day has been ranked No. 1 in the world on three separate occasions, the third time for a span of 11 months in 2016-2017, he readily admits that, when it comes to his golf career, he has been an underachiever who hasn’t worked hard enough to achieve his full potential.
“Underachieved, yeah,” Day admitted on Tuesday at Pebble Beach during practice rounds for the 119th U.S. open. “Severely underachieved, I think. 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.”
Winning certainly was a habit for Williams, who caddied for Ray Floyd, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods (for 13 of his 15 major wins) and, most recently, Adam Scott. It took some convincing for Day to lure Williams back on the road in a full-time role.
“He says that I pulled him out of a hole,” Day said. “But the hole was probably about as flat as this bloody table here. Because he was enjoying retired life back at home, with his kid, Jett, and his wife. He's got his racing, you know.
“He came back on the bag to win major championships. So, hopefully, I can fulfill that dream for both of us. And it was more about me sitting down with him and him seeing in my face and my eyes that I'm trying to—I'm going to do my best to try and do that.”
In early talks with Williams, Day began to understand just how much more committed to effort he needed to be.
“I know that there's a lot that I need to do, and there's a lot of work that I need to put into my game,” Day said. “I know just from hearing the stories that Steve has told me, just recently, about how hard these guys have worked that he's worked for, puts things in perspective.
“And knowing that I really only have—it's not a small window, but you're only here once—so you may as well get up and bust your butt because, looking back on it, and if I somehow only end up with 12 wins but I busted my butt, at least I know I put it all out there and I tried to make the right decisions for my career to give myself the best chance at winning more tournaments. That's ultimately what I want.”
Specifically, Day wants to win more than just the one major championship he already has. Williams signed on top carry Day’s bag because he believes the Aussie can do just that. Ideally, Day hopes to complete the career Grand Slam.
“Yes, it was a very nice compliment that he said to me about coming on the bag,” Day said. “And I do appreciate that. And granted, this is Steve Williams, it's not your local Sunday caddie down at your local club. It was a little bit intimidating to have him on the bag, to be honest. He's had a lot of great ball-strikers that he's worked for.
“And I'm excited—I was excited and intimidated in the same breath. But this is… now getting to know him over the last few days, I feel like we are kind of on the same path now. And that's obviously to get back on top and win more. And that's what we're here to do. I don't want to mess around with it.”
NOTE: In his first outing with Williams on Thursday, Day holed a 13-foot birdie putt on the final hole to post 1-under-par 70.