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February 25, 2014

A big win, and a new set of priorities for Jason Day

MARANA, Ariz. — Along with celebrating a World Golf Championship that took him to No. 4 in the world, Jason Day couldn’t help but consider the rest of the young season and wonder just how much higher he could go.

That’s when he paused to reflect, and to make a confession.

One of the worst labels hung on any golfer is that he’s only playing for a check. Day said he used to be one of those guys.

“I’m going to be honest here,” he said, almost as if he had something he wanted to get off his chest. “I come from a very poor family. So it wasn’t winning that was on my mind when I first came out on the PGA Tour. It was money. I wanted to play for money because I’d never had it before. Winning takes care of everything. And it’s not about the money anymore. I just to play golf — golf that I love — and win trophies.”

To look at his raw skill is to forget that few things in life have come easily to the 26-year-old Australian.

His father died of cancer when Day was 12. As a kid, he had to shop at a used clothing store, where for $5 he could stuff as much as he could into one bag. Finding refuge in golf and inspiration from the work ethic of Tiger Woods, he won a Nationwide Tour event at 19 and seemingly was on his way.

After six years on the PGA Tour, he earned close to $14 million — but had only one win, at the Byron Nelson Championship. He had a pair of close calls at the Masters, and nudged even closer to a major last year at Merion when he tied for second behind Justin Rose.

But it’s all about winning. Day seems to have figured that out.

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