Jennifer returned from the jammed and frenzied souvenir tent. Evidently, her shopping trip had been work. "I'm going to write a book," she said. "I'm going to call it Glamour Golf—Not." Day was starting the drive home when he noticed the fuel gauge. "You didn't get any gas, did you?" he said. Since arriving in San Francisco, the Days had done driving tours of the city day and night.
"Oh, please," Jennifer said. "The light's not even on."
Day pointed to the glowing low-fuel warning light. The car was running on fumes. "Shoot," Jennifer said. "But you love me."
"I love you so much, you can go out and push if we run out of gas," said the golfer.
They made it home, to the house they had rented for the week from an Olympic member. Two other couples, friends from Little Rock, were staying there, along with Day's Australian caddie, David Munce. In 13 hours Day would be hitting his opening shot in just his third U.S. Open. (He played in 1994 and '95 without making the cut.) He was soon sitting at the dining room table, sipping a Coors' Light, and his mood grew serious. "I'm excited about tomorrow, 'cause I know I'm going to hit it in the rough, and I know how I'm going to handle it," he was saying. "My granddaddy—God rest his soul, he's been dead forever—used to say, 'The harder you try, the behinder you get.' Corny old saying, but it's the truth. Now I laugh at the mistakes and stay calm when I'm playing well. That's why I'm playing better."
There was a time when he thought he might not be playing golf at all. Day was a superb junior golfer in Mississippi and a good collegiate player at Ole Miss. He played as a freshman, but in his sophomore year he started battling with his coach, Ernest Ross. Ross wanted Day to practice harder. Day, who believed then and still believes in practicing on the course, wanted to party harder. In the middle of the season he quit the team and stopped playing golf cold turkey. He figured he would get his degree, go to New York, become a stockbroker and maybe play Sunday golf.
One night after his third year at Mississippi, in a bar in Oxford, Day bumped into the Oklahoma golf coach, Gregg Grost. "I heard you stopped playing," Grost said. "That's stupid." In a series of telephone conversations, Grost persuaded Day to come to Oklahoma, without a scholarship, and resume his golf career. Day's mother thought the move was a waste of time. "She said, 'I am not going to pay for you to go there so that you can party,' " Day says. But Day went, dedicated himself to tournament golf again and became an All-America his first year in Norman and again as a fifth-year senior. "After I graduated, somebody said, 'Asia,' " Day says. "I didn't even know where Asia was, but off I went to play there. My granddaddy staked me the money. I wasn't very good, I was learning how to play, but I did all right."
Day is still learning how to play. Who isn't? His game is mellow. He barely holds on to the club, and there's no moment of violence in his swing. He's not long, doesn't hit the ball high and rarely tries to play a draw, but he's in control of his ball from start to finish. His swing is lazy and unhurried. In fact, everything he does is unhurried. That's why Nicklaus stuck him with the nickname All Day, which he has stamped on his golf balls. Now that he has sped up, his nickname has been upgraded to Half Day.
His emerging philosophy—laugh at the bad shots, stay calm when you're playing well—is ideal for Open play and served him well at Olympic. Day hit tee shots that landed in the middle of the fairway and wound up submerged in six inches of rough, and he did not so much as shrug. In the second round, on the 18th green, Day stroked a 25-foot birdie putt that looked for all the world as if it would die on the lip. Instead it rolled down the hill and left him with a 25-footer for par, which he missed. He was five blades of grass from being three over par for 36 holes. Instead he was five over. He did not get into a staring match with his ball, as Payne Stewart did in that same situation. Instead Day waved playfully at the ball while it rolled past him. He may have missed a putt, but he had won over the crowd. Day left it to his alter ego, Munce, to let a USGA official have it.
When the Days were audited last year, the auditor didn't understand why Glen's psychology bills, paid to Bob Rotella, were a business expense. The auditor should have been at Olympic. Day spent four days on a grueling course without ever losing his head. Anyone who has played in an Open will tell you that's an immense victory.