By Jim McCabe
Somehow, the memo about “global golf” hasn’t reached the penthouse of the Official World Golf Ranking. Jason Day, entrenched as World No. 1 for a 46th straight week, prefers to stick to the cozy confines of the PGA Tour.
Since opening the 2012 season in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, the Australian-born Day has played in 100 tournaments that have carried world-ranking points. Of those, 92 have been played on U.S. soil and 95 have been official PGA Tour events.
Day, 29, may not have been made in the US of A, but he sure has his feet glued to it. As a 17-year-old playing the Nationwide Tour, Day became smitten with a waitress at an Irish pub in Twinsburg, Ohio. He struck up a friendship with Ellie Harvey, who was two years older, and soon the relationship blossomed. They married in the fall of 2009 in Ellie’s hometown of Lucas, Ohio, and with their two children have settled in Columbus. It’s home for Day, and the only tournaments since early 2012 with world-ranking points that have given him cause to leave U.S. borders: four British Opens, two RBC Canadian Opens and a two-week swing in 2013 to his native Australia for the Aussie Open and the World Cup.
Other than that, it’s been, “Hello, RV; goodbye, passport.”
Now, none of this is wrong, and it’s hard to argue with Day’s success. He has won nine of his 10 PGA Tour titles in the past three years, including the 2015 PGA Championship. It’s just, well, that it stands in contrast to the “global golf” philosophy that the top-ranked golfers have embraced for years.
The first five to wear the title of “World No. 1” were born outside of the U.S. and proven worldwide players: Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, and Ian Woosnam.
Clearly, the most definitive No. 1 player of our generation, Tiger Woods, carried on in that tradition. Think what you want about Woods, but good gracious how the man stuffed his magic show into his travel bag.
(Favorite global memories of Woods: The eight-shot deficit that he overcame to beat Ernie Els in Thailand; storming the New Zealand Open in happier days with his Kiwi caddie Steve Williams; the massive crowds when he won the Australian Masters at vaunted Kingston Heath; playing on winning World Cup teams in Malaysia and Argentina; and twice giving Dubai fans a winning performance.)
Woods did what you would have wanted from a World No. 1. To a lesser degree, so did Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, all of whom embrace the travel.
When Jordan Spieth, after three brief stops at No. 1, returned to No. 1 for a fourth time in November 2015, guess where he went? To China, then Down Under for a memorable win at the Aussie Open. Early in ’16, he played in Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
That Day, who returns to the Tour this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after a week off, chooses a U.S.-centric schedule is his prerogative. But the next time you hear that to be top-ranked, a golfer must compete around the globe, feel free to counter, “or not.”
Jim McCabe has covered golf for his hometown Boston Globe and Golfweek. He can be found on Twitter @JimMcCabeGolf or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.