LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS – First it was Phil Mickelson and Bones Mackay.
Then it was Rory McIlroy and J.P. Fitzgerald.
And now it’s Jason Day and Colin Swatton.
A season of high-profile player/caddie splits took another twist with Day’s announcement that Swatton, his longtime coach and caddie, will no longer carry his bag but will remain as coach and counsel.
It was a surprising move but perhaps no more surprising than the changes for both Mickelson and McIlroy, both of whom were grinding through frustrating seasons.
Day was No. 1 in the world when 2017 began but he has fallen to ninth after a winless season that has included just two top-five finishes. Swatton has been Day’s coach since the golfer was 12 years old, serving as a mentor away from the course as well. As player and caddie, Day and Swatton were together for 11 years.
“He was an amazing caddie, amazing coach and amazing person,” Day said Wednesday. “He’s done pretty much everything he possibly can to get me to where I’m going. Unfortunately, just didn’t work out.
“Nothing is broken. I could have him on the bag next year. Might be a bag share thing. I just don’t know yet. This is kind of the first time I’ve actually been separated from Col as a player/caddie relationship and I’m trying to find my footing here and it’s kind of bad timing but it had to (happen) at some point.”
Day said he broke the news to Swatton during a long conversation last week and emphasized the decision was based on how he felt on the course and the way he found himself treating one of his best friends. It is similar to what McIlroy said about replacing Fitzgerald, saying he didn’t want to let what happened on the course ruin a long friendship.
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No one moment led to the decision, Day said, though his questionable choice on the 18th hole of the third round at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow – he tried to play a massive hook from an awkward spot among trees and over a creek, leading to a quadruple-bogey 8 that ruined his chances of winning – may have crystallized the growing fissure.
Conversation between the two, Day said, had become more difficult and less frequent. “No matter what he’s doing, if I hit a bad shot – you can hit a shot and I’ll be looking at him and he didn’t do anything, you know what I mean? I’m blaming him for nothing,” Day said.
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“I never wanted it to turn into a toxic relationship where he’s taken me from where I was as a 12-year-old kid to where I am today and I’m not talking to him anymore …
“The last couple of weeks were tough. Look, I’m no saint, I’m not perfect and I understand that and for me to come to a golf course and not even really talk to my caddie during the warm-up is not a nice thing to do as a person, let alone trying to treat someone like this.”
This week, Day will have his high school roommate Luke Reardon on the bag and could have someone different at the Tour Championship next week should he advance to East Lake. Beyond that, Day has not made a decision about a long-term caddie.
Day intends to continue working with Swatton as his swing coach.
“He’s my coach and always will be. I love him so much,” Day said. “I just want to make sure I did the right thing. Obviously, when you let go of someone sometimes it’s hard but there’s been a lot going (on) this year.”