Australian golfer Jason Day didn’t drop the phone. The same couldn’t be said about his jaw.
“The Rod Laver,” Day said moments after winning the first of his two Farmers Insurance Open titles in 2015.
Yep that one, mate, and how did the North County become an intersection for Aussie sportsmen? Two of them, Laver and Day, are in the news Down Under and around here.
Day, who hails like Laver from Rockhampton, Queensland, is full of Aussie charm and is returning to defend his championship at the rugged Torrey Pines Golf Course from Jan. 21 to Jan. 27. The North Course is in play for the first two rounds, then it’s just a South Course void of any manners.
Day prevailed in last year’s Monday playoff and looked to be bound for a big year. That didn’t happen for various reasons, but Day, ranked No. 11, is brimming with vigor in a bid to find his form.
Where else is better to do it than the scenic bluffs of Torrey Pines? Day, 31, has been winning there since taking the Junior World Golf’s 15-17 years age-group crown in 2004.
“It’s a golf course that I thoroughly enjoy playing at and competing against everyone,” Day said. “I’ve had a lot of good memories in the process.”
Among them are Day forming a connection with Laver, the Aussie tennis legend. Laver, a longtime North County resident, has long been keen on Day.
“He’s a Queenslander, you know,” Laver often said when tracking Day.
So when Day won at Torrey, Laver was watching from his Carlsbad couch. The longtime local was rooting for a home boy.
After Day finished off the field and his media obligations, he had Laver on the line.
“Yes, Mr. Laver,” Day said in accepting the Aussie icon’s congratulations.
Day was wide-eyed then and now when hearing of Laver.
“You have no idea big how big he is at home,” Day said.
Laver, 80, finds the January spotlight, too, as he’s being honored at next week’s Australian Open. Tennis’ first Major of the season, in the arena that bears his name, will salute the 50th anniversary of Laver’s second and historic Grand Slam.
In 1969 Laver became the only player to secure two Grand Slams in winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, plus Wimbledon, in a calendar year. He’ll be the toast of Melbourne and Day isn’t surprised.
“He is such a giant in our country,” said Day, who’s donated signed caps to Laver’s charity endeavors. “And above what he did on the tennis court is he such a humble, nice person.”
The two went on to exchange cell numbers and occasionally cross ways. Day knows why he enjoys beating a path toward Torrey Pines.
“It reminds me of Australia and obviously when you’re playing someplace that reminds you of home that brings a lot of good memories back,” Day said. “I know the course was set up for me and I like the ones that are harder to score on.”
Day will try to go low in a field that includes five other tournament winners and Justin Rose, the world’s top-rated golfer. Tiger Woods was expected to play but has yet to commit.
Others of note include Torrey Pines High’s Pat Perez and Jamie Lovemark, Poway’s Charley Hoffman and San Diego State products Xander Schauffele and J.J. Spaun. Schauffele won Sunday’s PGA Tour season-opening event in Hawaii and rise to No. 6.
“That golf course is going to test you,” Day said. “You are not only playing against the other guys but it’s yourself and your ego. There’s going to be a lot of disappointment out there sometime.”
No worries, mate? Hardly, when trying to tame Torrey Pines.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports