Prior to the 106th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, 2015 champion Jason Day stopped to reflect on his lone major victory nine years ago.

In 2015, you went on to win your first major tournament at the PGA Championship, scoring a record 20 strokes under par. Can you describe the emotions that you were experiencing when approaching the final few holes, knowing you were on the verge of making history?

Jason Day: I think it was something that I was going to build into. I was playing really well leading into that tournament. I had just won the Canadian Open and coming off the back of nearly winning the Open Championship, where I was in the final group with fellow Rolex testimonee Jordan Spieth and we both needed to birdie that final hole to get into the playoff. That was the same year that Jordan won the Masters Tournament and the US Open, so he was playing some tremendous golf. We ultimately finished T-4 at The Open but it was more about the experience that I had winning those events and sharing those moments with Jordan as well. He was the best player in the world at the time and trying to beat someone of that calibre at the time was very difficult with how well he was playing. We both won five times in 2015, so he was playing some really good golf and to try and beat him, I needed to be at the top of my game. For me, I was driving it very long and putting very well. Those were the two things that stood out to me most.

In terms of coming down the stretch at the PGA Championship, when all’s said and done, the emotions stemmed from all the hard work and knowing that at some point as a kid, I had dreamed about that moment and winning Major championships. For me, to be able to experience that not only with my family and friends but also with my coach at the time and caddie, who had been my coach ever since I was 13 years old, was a very special moment for me. That’s why a lot of emotions came out. I thought about what my mum had sacrificed and what my dad went through as he passed away when I was 12 years old. There were a number of emotions that filled me and I was crying before the final putt went in. I remember a lot of that day but just being able to compete at the highest level, knowing what I had gone through, and the emotions that ensued afterwards, knowing that I had secured the victory, was special.

What was your key takeaway from winning the PGA Championship in 2015 and how has this influenced your approach to the game since?

Knowing that I had the game to compete at the highest level is a given but more so proving to myself that I can win on a Major scale. Looking back at that victory, I know I need to prepare more and get better at my craft overall. It’s very hard to win in golf – especially out here now with all the guys being very young and capable of hitting the ball a very long way. The competition is getting harder and what that tells me is that as long as I stay motivated, healthy, willing to do the work and disciplined, the experience that I have in terms of the tournaments that I’ve won, but also lost, goes a long way. Knowing that I can win on a Major scale is huge and I feel like I’ve got a lot more to prove in my career than just winning one time as a PGA champion.

Looking ahead to this year and the 106th edition of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, how does your preparation differ for major tournaments compared to regular tour events?

You’d like to say that your preparation doesn’t change because you want to win every single week, but essentially it does. Everyone pretty much plays around the major championships and tries to peak around these tournaments.

For me, I’m going to be playing in the lead up to those events but also giving myself enough time for a break beforehand because I know how long and taxing those weeks can be. It really depends on how you like to prepare. Some guys like to play the week before, whereas some guys like to play two weeks before. I usually like to take a week off before the event, get in there early, practice and get all my work done. Essentially, once we get in there and the tournament weeks get underway, the practice rounds get very long as every player wants to chip around the greens for example. That’s why I like to get in there early and get my preparation done because that way, when I go out, I’m not doing the same and wasting energy.

There is also the visualisation part. I’ve played before at Valhalla and I was in the final round with Rory McIlroy when he won the PGA Championship there in 2014, so knowing that I’ve had success at that course in the past, I’ll try to remember that and move forward with it.

What features of the course stand out the most to you? Are there sections of the golf course that excite you to play there, and what part of your game do you anticipate you will have to lean on in order to be competitive?

The time that we played the PGA Championship there in 2014, it was very wet. We had a lot of rain and the golf course played very long. It gets very hot around there and whilst that’s typically a different part of the year, it could still get very hot. It will definitely play long. It’s a big, wide golf course. You have to be precise to do well at Valhalla. For the most part, at PGA Championships, they do a great job at making it fair, whereas that’s not always the case at some of the other championships – if we take the U.S. Open, for instance, they can grow the rough very long; and at The Open, it can be hugely weather dependent. When it comes to the PGA Championship, I feel like they grow tough rough but it’s fair to the point that if you get it in there, you can often get it up around the greens and make a par. They want low scores but not scores that are too low. With that in mind, I feel like when it comes to prepping for Valhalla, I’ll be playing a lot of golf and be prepped for that course, but it comes down more to how I’ve got the experience playing that tournament and playing that golf course, so I kind of know what’s going on.

You have played in the Presidents Cup on four occasions, representing the International team in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. What is it about these team competitions that you particularly enjoy?

It’s evolved over time. I had Greg Norman as my first captain, followed by Nick Faldo and Ernie Els. Ever since those two took the reins, the whole team environment and the way in which we used statistical analysis to pair the guys together changed. I know we haven’t had the greatest results, but I feel like we’re at the cusp of that changing. Unfortunately, the last couple of times when I was supposed to play, I have been injured and it hurt not being able to get out there and play. I really wanted to go out there and play and be on the team. I also really want to beat the American side because everyone knows that whether it’s the Presidents Cup or The Ryder Cup, the American side is always good. The Presidents Cup is something that we really look forward to. At the start of my career, I didn’t really know whether I would really look forward to these team events but it’s something that I’ve grown to really love. As golf is such an individual sport, to have a group of guys behind you, pushing you to beat the guy you’re playing or trying to win a cup for the first time is something special. I know the International team have won it before but not for a long time. You don’t forget the memories you make playing in team competitions and the ones I’ve got from my four appearances will always be with me – in particular, the feeling of having that group of guys standing behind me trying to push me on.

You made your Presidents Cup competition debut in 2011 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Can you tell us about this experience and also your earliest memories of the competition?

It was down in Australia, and I had Aaron Baddeley as one of my teammates at the time. It was so much fun. From an Australian fan’s perspective, I think they were more just appreciative of both sides getting down there to play, and the Australian and Victorian Government being able to step in to facilitate the tournament and get the Presidents Cup to take place in Melbourne in the first place to showcase the magnificent golf courses that we have in Australia, such as Royal Melbourne. I think the fans were excited to not just see the International side but also the US side because we’re so starved for golf in Australia.

The nerves were high because it was my first ever massive team event, coupled with it being in Australia so there was so much expectation. There was some mixed weather, but it was so fun to play against the guys. The result didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to, but I enjoyed that week so much and I really hope I can play in another team event sometime soon.

Who has been your favourite playing partner at the Presidents Cup and if you could choose any golfer in the world, past or present, to play with, who would you choose?

Presently, I would love to play with fellow Rolex testimonee Hideki Matsuyama. I’m really good friends with Hideki and enjoy the way he plays the game. I’ve enjoyed my time with Adam Scott as well, who’s also part of the Rolex family. If I had to choose to play with someone, I think it would have to be either Ernie Els or Nick Faldo. Gary Player would also be a good pick. I’ve always been a massive Ernie Els fan from the day I met him. I actually met him at the same course we played the Presidents Cup at. We were playing a tournament down there and I was really young. I think it would have been really fun to play with him. I distinctly remember the dual that he had with Tiger Woods down in South Africa, and the playoffs that they had and how they shared the cup in the end because they ran out of darkness, but it felt like two titans of the game going head-to-head and trying to win the cup. It was just blow by blow, trying to win at all costs and just amazing to watch. As a team event, I think I would love to play with Ernie.

In 2024, the Presidents Cup will be held in Montreal, Canada. How motivated are you to make the team?

Very motivated. This year’s Presidents Cup is one thing at the top of my list because obviously I haven’t been able to play in the last two or so, which hurt. To make the International team means that you are up there as one of the best players in the world that year. I’ve been to Montreal before and love the city. I love the people up there. Mike Weir is obviously Canadian, and I remember his duel with Tiger at the Royal Montreal Golf Club, so this is definitely going to mean a lot to Mike and you can tell that through the meetings and dinners that we have already had. It clearly means a lot to him and to the other vice-captains as well. We’re starting to put together a really solid team and if I can be a part of that team, I would appreciate it so much, but at the same time, I’ve still got to play well and have to be focused on that first and foremost. If I can play well now and in the major championships this season, that will work me into the International team and I’ll have the opportunity to play at Royal Montreal.

Do you have any ambitions to captain the International team in the future?

That’s so far away, so I’m hope that’s a long way down the line! When it comes time to being a captain or vice-captain, so be it but right now, I’m just trying to play in as many editions of the Presidents Cup that I can and after that’s done, I’ll focus on that!

In 2015, you became world No.1 – one of the game’s crowing achievements – and stayed at the top for 51 weeks. What did this moment mean to you and how, if at all, did reaching this ranking shape your approach to your game and long-term goals?

Winning the Mark H. McCormack Award in 2016 was special. To know that you are the best player in the world that year is a really big thing for me. Holding the World No.1 ranking for the longest out of anyone else that year and knowing that I was the best player on the planet regardless of what anyone else says is important to me because that’s ultimately what I work for. When I first turned professional, my goals were, first and foremost, to become world No.1 and to win major championships. I’m currently trying to get back to world No.1 – that’s another goal of mine. My mindset is: granted, I went through some injuries but how do I get back there? I want to get back there. This is important to me. That’s what I’m striving for – to get back to World No.1. It’s always been a highlight of my career, knowing that I held that position for 51 weeks, but I would love to get back there and extend that so I can say that I was there for a lot longer than 51 weeks.

How do you manage the pressure and expectations of being an elite level golfer?

That’s an important question because when I first got to world No.1, I feel like I was very accessible. Anyone could come up to me and I would be open to doing whatever they would ask. I think after a while, that really drained my energy and motivation to succeed to the point that I kind of got burnt out. Being the best player in the world does come with expectations and I do understand that but being able to and learn to prioritise good golf, great golf, over anything else is the most important thing. There are three things in this world that matter to me – first and foremost, family; my golf; and my health. Those are the three pillars in my life that are important. If I can stay on top of those three pillars that will yield me good golf and if I can focus on that, I shouldn’t have a problem getting back to the top as I know I have the game to get there. Managing all the rest is something that I have to figure out myself and learn to manage it in a correct manner, but it’s something that’s just part of the game. If you’re the best player in the world, you’re the most watched guy. The expectation is for you to win each and every week, and I understand that. I would rather have that expectation, that pressure and that stress than not have it. If I don’t have that in my life then I’m not striving for excellence or to get to that next level or to be a better person and player, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

Who has been the biggest influence on your golf career? What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Colin Swatton was my caddie and coach for the longest time, so he was a massive influence on me. My agent, Bud Martin, has been a massive influence in my career – not only golf wise but in terms of the business side of things. My wife has been a huge influence too. When I sometimes feel like I can’t push anymore, she’s the one lifting me up and pushing me further. Having her by my side telling me, ‘You have more to accomplish in this game’ – in particular, during my injury years – meant the world to me.

My current coach, Chris Como, made me realise that you have to play this game with more love and passion than pain. At the start of my career, I think I played with more pain and that was the thing that really motivated me based off my experiences as a kid, not growing up with a lot of money and a lot of the memories that I had were painful. That was a lot of the core motivation as to why I wanted to be a player and succeed as a golfer; whereas now, that has changed. I think I’m playing more out of the love of the game and passion for the game, and there’s a lot more longevity in that. There’s a better place to play from when you’re playing from that type of love and passion.

There have been plenty of influential people along my career that have helped me so much and pushed me in the right direction. Equally, with what they’re trying to do, I’m trying to push them too. There’s been an equal push-and-pull.

With regards to the best piece of advice, I always remember my dad saying ‘never say die’ which means you go out there and give everything that you possibly have, and if you do and the other guy beats you, you go and shake his hand and you move on and try to win the next one and do the best job that you possibly can. Leaving it all out on the golf course is what this saying meant to me.

As a professional golfer, you get to travel the world and play the sport in some amazing locations. Do you have a favourite course to play on? If so, what is it and why?

I do. Now, granted, we do play courses at the best time of year. When we play Augusta National, it’s tournament golf course; when we play St Andrews at The Open Championship, it’s tournament golf course. Some of the best memories I’ve had are from playing Carnoustie. One of my favourite courses to place is Muirfield Village in Ohio – that’s a top five. Pebble Beach on a great day is one of my favourites. However, if I had to play at one golf course for the rest of my life, it would have to be St Andrews just because of the playability – there are so many different ways to play a links golf course – but there’s something so spiritual about it. St Andrews is the Home of Golf. There’s something so different and just the feeling of being there is different. If you’ve ever been there, you will understand what I’m talking about. It’s just a different feeling and I enjoy the golf course so much, so I would have to say St Andrews.

How do you like to relax and spend time away from the golf course?

I spend the majority of my time away from the golf course with my family. We have a couple of farms up north, so we spend a lot of time out on the farm together. I grew up as a farming boy back home – we would raise cattle and everything. I’ve got five kids so that usually keeps me pretty busy!

Can you describe what it is like to be part of the Rolex family, alongside some of the game’s greats such as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods?

To be part of the Rolex family alongside the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Tiger Woods is special and those names really represent the brand. It’s very nice to be mentioned alongside them and in the same conversations. Rolex has been an amazing partner for a long time for me. I look forward to having a long, healthy relationship with Rolex, but also to be able to be friends with these people is amazing.

What are your overall thoughts about Rolex’s longstanding support of golf?

It’s been amazing. It dates back to 1967 when it started with Arnold Palmer and soon after, he was joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player – the Big Three. That’s how it all started, Rolex partnering with those three greats of the game. If you then go through what Rolex has done in the game of golf and its support not only at a junior level but to the elite amateurs, the men’s and women’s professional games, the Major tournaments and team competitions, it just goes to show how much golf means to Rolex and also how much we appreciate the brand’s support.

As Rolex is deeply associated with excellence and precision, how do you channel these qualities in your game, particularly when facing the unique challenges of Major events and team competitions like the Presidents Cup?

The sport has quickly changed and evolved over time. I think something that not only us as players but also Rolex understands is that, as time goes on, you have to adapt quickly to the ever-changing environment that we both share. A big thing for Rolex is excellence and for me personally, that’s something that I’m always trying to strive for – including into the majors. At the start of the year, we always try and plan our schedules around the major championships and the team competitions like the Presidents Cup, and the Ryder Cup for the American and European guys. They’re some of the things that we look forward to each year. We try and plan our way around those events so when it comes to those points, we give ourselves the best shot at striving for excellence and delivering in those moments. For us, excellence means winning tournaments, winning major championships and trying to win these massive awards and accolades.

Can you share a particular moment or experience that highlighted the significance of your partnership with Rolex in your career?

When I was going through injuries and it was time to start looking at extending the partnership, Rolex came to me and asked to extend it. What that meant to me was that it clearly represented more than just a partnership. It was more about the family component and how the relationship that started in 2012 had blossomed into something more than your typical partnership – more than just Rolex and Jason Day; it was a family for me. The loyalty also really stands out – not only from my side to Rolex, but from Rolex to me and from Rolex to the many tournaments and tours around the world with which the brand is partnered with and supports.