Jason Day’s longtime coach is no longer his caddie. In a surprising move, Day said Wednesday he has parted ways with Colin Swatton for at least the rest of the year, though he will keep him as the only coach he has ever had.
It was the third split this year involving top players and their longtime caddies. Phil Mickelson and Jim “Bones” Mackay split after 25 years, while Rory McIlroy parted with J.P. Fitzgerald after nearly a decade.
“I never wanted it to turn into a toxic relationship,” Day said. “I was worried if I kept it going, it was going to head that way, and I love him too much to have him not in my life.”
Swatton was as much a life coach as his golf instructor and caddie. Day was a 12-year-old in Australia who got caught up in drinking and fighting after his father died. His mother depleted the family savings and borrowed money to send him to Koralbyn International School in Queensland, where Swatton ran the golf program.
Swatton encountered a head-strong kid and helped him become a major champion and No. 1 in the world. Day, however, is enduring a troublesome year on and off the golf course. He has fallen from No. 1 to No. 9 in the world ranking, and his FedEx Cup ranking of No. 28 means he is in jeopardy of not advancing to the Tour Championship for the first time in five years.
Ultimately, he found his relationship with Swatton getting stale. He said the last two tournaments were particularly strained, with them hardly talking to each other.
“Everything is great when you win, but when you’re playing poorly, that’s when a true test of a relationship actually happens between a player and a caddie,” Day said. “It’s just the chemistry between me and Col just slowly over time … and it’s more my fault really, because he’s out there trying to do the best job he can, and unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”
Except for the 2014 Tour Championship when Swatton was injured, Day has never had anyone but his coach on the bag at PGA Tour events.
Day, who won the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, is using Luke Reardon, his roommate from a golf academy in Australia, for the BMW Championship this week at Conway Farms, and for the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta if Day stays in the top 30.
He said friends helped Reardon get a job working roof construction in Ohio. Now he’ll be the caddie for Day in the BMW Championship, the third FedEx Cup playoff event, in which the top 30 advance to the FedEx Cup finale and a shot at the $10 million bonus prize.
Day said Reardon’s visa expires at the end of the month, and that former player David Lutterus would caddie for him at the Presidents Cup. And then what?
Day said he might consider using multiple caddies for job-sharing, hire a full-time caddie or even bring Swatton back. “This is the first time I’ve actually been separated from Col as a player-caddie relationship and I’m trying to find my footing here,” he said. “He was obviously a bit shocked and disappointed.”
Swatton did not come to the BMW Championship and did not immediately respond to a message left on his phone seeking comment. Day said he would prefer to work with Swatton in the days and weeks leading up to tournaments, so he’s not trying to fix anything at an event.
“Me and him have been inseparable since the day I came out,” Day said. “He’s my coach and always will be. I love him so much. 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.”
The year began with Day trying to get his mother to doctors in Ohio, where he lives, to be treated for lung cancer. She is doing better. His game, however, has suffered. In his only chance at winning, he three-putted during a playoff at the AT&T Byron Nelson. His tie for ninth in the PGA Championship was his only top 10 in a major.