Success and longevity are the two attributes that all top sportsmen and women crave. Reaching the summit of your respective sport is an achievement that all competitors are driven to accomplish from an early age, while remaining there is the objective over the course of a long career. However, anyone involved with sport at the highest level knows that longevity is extremely difficult to achieve. It is why the men and women that sustain their success over multiple years are heralded.
In golf, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods stand apart for their brilliance over a sustained period. No golfer has won more majors than Nicklaus with 18, although Woods came extremely close to catching his compatriot with 14 triumphs at the peak of his powers. Woods added a 15th major to his name in 2019 and moved level with Sam Snead as the most successful PGA Tour golfer of all time, but it appears his days at the top of the game are now over. Phil Mickelson is another man that defied age to continue to enjoy success at the highest level, becoming the oldest player in history to win a major at the PGA Championship in 2021. He is backed at the 80/1 in the sports betting odds to win a seventh crown in the first major of 2022 at The Masters.
There have been many golfers that will have watched Woods at his peak along with Mickelson, and would have been determined to emulate their success. The story of Jason Day is a testament to the difficulties of remaining at the top of the game, despite boasting the talent to compete for and win majors. Day broke onto the scene in 2010 by winning the Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour, and caught the eye by finishing second at The Masters and the US Open. Day was a consistent contender for the major crowns before he finally captured his first crown at the PGA Championship in 2015, while becoming the world number one in the process.
After reaching the summit, Day had the potential to win further crowns, displaying the composure and a fine all-round game to match the best in the world. However, the Australian has endured a dramatic decline since his triumph, especially over the last two years, missing 14 cuts out of 36 competitions. He has flashed his brilliance every so often, finishing tied-fifth at The Masters in 2019 and fourth at the PGA Championship in 2020. The 33-year-old has struggled both physically and mentally with the rigours of the sport, and appears to be in a crux position in his career.
Day is not the only player to have struggled to maintain success. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were supposed to be the next two golfing greats after their initial bursts, but both have failed to compete at the majors of late. McIlroy and Spieth both suffered high-profile collapses at The Masters, and although they regained their composure to win further majors, they still carry the scars of their mistakes to this day. Golf provides the ultimate test of mental and physical ability under pressure. It takes a special player that is able to carry the weight of that burden to enjoy multiple years of success. As we’ve seen in the examples of Day, McIlroy, and Spieth, talent alone is not sufficient.