WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — With the injury-idled Tiger Woods starting to slide, an Australian has taken over the top spot in the world golf rankings.
He’s Adam Scott, No. 1 for the third straight week. But it just as easily could have been another Australian, Jason Day.
Day, who is ranked No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking despite missing most of three months with a thumb injury, became the latest high-profile commitment to play in the Greenbrier Classic, June 30-July 6.
He joins the not-so-surprising commitments of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. Watson, the two-time Masters champion, moved to No. 3 in the world after his third-place finish last weekend at the Memorial Tournament. Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open winner, is 33rd.
The commitment of Day, who was the special guest Tuesday at the Classic’s media day, was a pleasant surprise. Still just 26 years old, he has won a World Golf Championships event and owns top-three finishes in two Masters and two U.S. Opens.
Day, whose Stateside residence is in Columbus, Ohio, is ready to play on the Old White TPC course. He said he has always watched the tournament in previous years, so he knows it a bit from the outside.
And he’s heard a thing or two from insiders. Word of the Greenbrier resort’s appeal, of the relaxed atmosphere it offers for players and their families, gets around.
“We have a nanny that’s Bubba Watson’s nanny as well. This is her favorite stop of the year,” Day said. “We’re looking forward to coming here, just hearing from word of mouth. There’s so much to offer here.
“I know that my wife, my son will love it here, there’s so much to do for my family. At some places where I play, those places don’t offer what they have here, and they get bored. They won’t get bored here.”
Day said his thumb is 100 percent, and he resumed play last weekend at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, his home course. He didn’t finish high, but he did make his 30th consecutive cut.
He has played consistently at a high level since a rocky 2008 rookie season on the PGA Tour. He has earned $15.8 million in his career, finishing inside the top 20 of the FedExCup standings three times. Even with his downtime this spring, he is 34th in the current standings.
He won his first Tour event in 2010, and finished second in his first Masters and first U.S. Open in 2011. He finished third in the 2013 Masters and second in the U.S. Open that year, and played in his second Presidents Cup that fall, going 3-1-1 for the International team against the U.S. at Muirfield Village.
In February, he won the Accenture Match Play, a WGC event.
That shot him to No. 4 in the world with a chance to go higher, but his thumb got in the way. He came back in April at the Masters, but then went back to the sidelines.
“With a win there, I would have shot up to No. 1 in the world,” Day said. “I finished T-20. I had six weeks off before, and playing in that tournament kind of set me back two or three weeks in the healing process.
“I had two shots in the thumb, initially. The guy that fixed my right wrist, I saw him up in Cleveland, gave me another shot and that hit. It’s just good to be back in the swing again. It was getting really frustrating to start the year I did, playing great golf ...”
Day will use the Classic as a springboard to the British Open two weeks later, where he has finished no higher than 30th. Like a number of players, he thinks the Classic will be a better fit on his schedule.
“I never go play the week before [a major] except for the PGA, when I go to the WGC Bridgestone [at Akron, Ohio] the week before,” he said. “It’s perfect with my schedule where I can go play two weeks out, take a good few days off and then get in Thursday at the British, where I can prepare as well. It fits in perfectly.”
Watson is coming off a near-miss at the Memorial, where his out-of-bounds drive on the 15th ultimately made the difference between first and third place. He owns two Tour victories this season, including his second Masters, and is second in the FedExCup standings behind Greenbrier regular Jimmy Walker.
Watson now has his own parking space near the Greenbrier golf clubhouse, bumping pro emeritus Tom Watson over to the third closest to the door. (Resort owner Jim Justice has the first spot, tennis pro emeritus Pete Sampras the fourth.)
Simpson won his fourth Tour event last fall at the Shriners Hospital for Children event in Las Vegas. He hasn’t had a top-10 finish since February, but is still 18th in the FedExCup rankings.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.