Jason Day has been plagued with injuries this year, with the most recent occurring last week in Denver at the BMW Championship. Day was forced to withdraw midway through the second round. However, during the first round of the Tour Championship, another member of Team Day had to pull out — Jason’s longtime caddie and coach, Colin Swatton, was forced to put down the bag after seven holes at East Lake on Thursday.
Swatton, who had caddied all 601 of Day’s competitive rounds as a Tour professional, woke up with a locked back, but he was treated by a trainer, who diagnosed the problem with his sacroiliac joint. Despite Day’s encouragement for him to take the day off and rest, Swatton still showed up to the first tee, but obviously he pushed himself too hard and carrying the load of a heavy bag in the sweltering Southern heat and humidity was too much for him.
“Look, if you get out there and you pull out, I’m going to be very pissed,” said Day after he posted a three-under 67, giving him a share of third in the 29-man field. “Because I said take the day off. I said: Take the day off. Get some rest.
“Because if you just miss today and you feel better tomorrow, then I’ve got you for the next three days. If you go and caddie and can’t caddie tomorrow because you hurt your back even more, then that’s obviously where I said I was going to be pissed.”
(I don’t think Jason was actually upset.)
Luckily, Team Day had arranged for another member to step in just in case. Day’s mental coach Jason Goldsmith looped for Jason the remaining eleven holes, where they went three-under. It was Goldsmith’s first time caddying on the PGA Tour level. He had some previous club caddying experience back in 2006 at Big Horn.
Goldsmith, drenched in sweat, was relatively unfazed by the substitution. Prior to teeing off, Swatton had explained the numbers written in the yardage book to Goldsmith, so he’d know how to answer any of Day’s questions if something came up.
“Col had done all the work,” said Goldsmith. “All the numbers were there. Jason got all his numbers and paced everything off, so it was a really easy job.”
The most awkward part of the gig was making sure he was abiding by proper caddie etiquette and helping out the other looper in the group correctly. Day was paired with Rickie Fowler.
“I’d say that I was more worried about not doing what I’m supposed to do for Joe (Skovron) than anything else,” said Goldsmith. “Like when Rickie missed the green on 14 or 15, where he hit it in out of the bunker and didn’t reach the green.
“I had walked up the hill and I was more worried if I was supposed to rake that bunker or not, so that was about the most stress I had all day.
“‘Jase, did I do the right thing?’
“He was like, ‘I think so, because we missed the green, too.’”
Day gave Goldsmith a glowing review.
“He does walk every round,” he said. “He does the green reading during the practice rounds. And he didn’t know what to do, really. So he just had the yardage book. He’s coming over to me and he looked official.
“He did a good job, though. He did a really good job. It was kind of something where it just kind of clicked. It worked. I did all the yardages out there and we were just talking out there, kind of just going about our way, and that kind of calmed me down a little bit.”
Interesting enough, Day, who was even par when Swatton was forced to leave, actually got his yardages more accurately when he was left to his own devices.
“When I had Col on the bag today, it was the first few holes where I got yardage wrong,” said Day, laughing. “So every other yardage that I had after that, as soon as he got off the bag, I got them right.
“Sometimes there’s that little bit of I’m just relying on him a little bit just to make sure the yardage is right. But seemed like every other yardage after he pulled out I got it right.”
But it wasn’t necessarily because it helped him focus more. The ultimate goal for Day is obviously to win the Tour Championship — whether he has Swatton or Goldsmith on the bag for the rest of the week.
“I’ve been preparing for a long time (to win the tournament and the FedExCup),” said Day. “Obviously, just to be able to practice and get ready for this tournament over the last four, five weeks. So, I mean, I’m very motivated to play well here.
“The focus hasn’t really gone up as much as Col’s pulled out, you think you’re doing your own yardage, you should focus more. But it just feels the same. It feels the same. I’m just out here trying to do my job, and my job is to try and win at the end of the week.”
For the record, Jason made it clear that Swatton’s job is in no way in jeopardy.
“To have Col on the bag for such a long time, for him to miss a tournament, it’s not going to be the end of the world because I know he’s going to be on the bag until he wants to fire me,” said Day.
Day will head into the second round just one shot off the pace set by Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel, who have won the last two events in the FedExCup Playoffs, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship, respectively.