KOHLER (Wisconsin) • A year ago, Jason Day was worried that he might never play golf again because of vertigo and a degenerative back condition that had forced him to withdraw from several tournaments.
They were the latest setbacks that the Australian had overcome since losing his father to cancer at age 12.
On Sunday, he capped his comeback from uncertainty with a record-setting, three-shot win at the PGA Championship, his first Major title following numerous near misses.
"The path that I was on was never expected for me to be here," an emotional Day said after firing a five-under 67 in the final round to finish at 20-under 268 - the lowest score relative to par in a Major championship.
"I lose my dad at 12, and then meet (caddie) Colin (Swatton)," added the 27-year-old, who has shared tales of getting drunk and fighting after his father died.
THIS DAY WAS COMING
• Jason Day on Sunday recorded his 10th top 10 finish in 21 career Major starts.
• He was in the top-five six times in Majors before his first win - the most since Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Masters.
MAKINGS OF A GREAT WEEK
• The Australian's 20-under effort was the best score to par in Major championship history.
• He was 60-for-62 on putts inside 10 feet this week - the best in the field.
• He also ranked first in strokes gained tee-to-green this week.
• He hit 76.4 per cent greens in regulation this week - second only to Justin Rose.
SPIETH HAS WORLD AT HIS FEET
• Jordan Spieth's 54-under par is the best all-time combined Major score in a calendar year.
• His 17-under at Whistling Straits ties the second-lowest score to par for a non-champion of modern-era Major. At the 2000 PGA Championship, Bob May was 18-under.
• The Texan teed it up against 561 players at the Majors this year and was beaten by just four of them.
• He joins Jack Nicklaus (1973) and Tiger Woods (2005) as the only players to finish in the top four in all four Majors in the Masters era.
• The 22-year-old is the second-youngest world No. 1 in history. Woods was 21 years and 167 days old when he first became the top-ranked golfer in 1997.
"To have him walk the journey with me and have him walk up the 18th hole with me was just a special, special thing, that I could never forget."
From his birdie from a bunker at the second hole, Day was off and running, leaving eventual runner-up Jordan Spieth (68) and the rest of the field in the shade.
His 50-foot birdie putt at the seventh capped a burst of three straight birdies.
And he finished with seven birdies on the day and two bogeys.
He reached 20-under for good with a two-putt birdie from the fringe at the par-five 16th.
At 18, he rolled his first putt from 45 feet to within a foot, and was already weeping as he tapped in for par and the win.
South African Branden Grace had applied the most pressure, moving within one stroke of Day's lead after a third straight birdie at the seventh.
But Day pulled away with his own birdie burst and his lead was never again less than two strokes.
Grace finished third after a 69 for 273 while Spieth, the Masters and US Open champion, was second on 271.
"I still provided some opportunities to maybe put pressure on at the end and Jason just shut the door," the American said.
"He was sitting there swinging as hard as he could off the tee, and every single drive was right down the middle of the fairway."
Before Sunday, Day had finished in the top 10 nine times in Majors, including July's British Open, where he entered the last round tied for the lead.
The toughest loss, he said, came at the 2013 Masters, where he led after 15 holes in the final round only to bogey the 16th and 17th as countryman Adam Scott went on to win.
However, the one where he gained the most was his tie for ninth at the US Open in June, when he held a share of the lead through three rounds.
He played the last three days with vertigo and had to will himself not to walk off the course and quit a few times.
By grinding out a result, Day proved to himself that he had the fortitude to break through the ceiling of his comfort zone.
"I felt like it was a real kind of growing moment for me because every now and then, we get to a point in our games where it's OK to just go, 'OK, it's all right; I can just hit it in the middle of the green,' or 'I don't really need to hole this putt'," he said.
"It has taken a long time to get to the point where I can actually feel a lot more comfortable in a position where I can just go out and attack," he added.
At Whistling Straits, Day became only the 13th player in history to win a Major with four rounds in the 60s.
He rose from fifth to a career-high No. 3 in the world yesterday but, more importantly, shed the tag of one of the best players never to win a Major.
"If I didn't have that failure, I wouldn't be standing here today with the trophy.
"I'm just glad that it's finally happened," he said.
BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE