As fallen tennis star Nick Kyrgios fights to restore his battered image, champion golfer Jason Day has offered a touching insight into why he’s emerged as Australian sport’s Mr Nice Guy.
Long before his dominance on some of golf’s biggest stages this year, Day has been regarded as among the most likeable and respected players on tour.
But since his overdue breakthrough at last month’s US PGA Championship, the 27-year-old’s popularity has soared, with social media lighting up to hail Day a breath of fresh air for Australian sport.
The Queenslander credits his grounded approach to some sage fatherly advice delivered before his career inspiration died of cancer when Day was just 12.
“I guess it’s just in my nature. I try and be as nice as I can,” Day said as he savoured his six-stroke win at The Barclays, the world No.3’s third win from his past four starts.
“Don’t worry, I’ve pissed off plenty of people. I’m going to publicly apologise to everyone that I’ve pissed off over the years.
“But, you know, my dad said a phrase to me when I was a kid: ‘Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.’ I just try and do that, regardless of who it is.
“On top of it, just don’t take yourself too serious. Don’t take it too serious. People kind of take things a little bit too serious, sometimes even take themselves a little too serious.
“Sometimes even I do it.”
The model athlete’s reflections came on the eve of Kyrgios’s much-hyped US Open showdown with Andy Murray in New York.
It will be Kyrgios’s first outing since being placed on a suspended ban by the ATP for verbally taunting French Open champion Stan Wawrinka at last month’s Montreal Masters.
Kyrgios is vowing to be on his best behaviour, something that comes naturally to Day and American golf prodigy Jordan Spieth, who has also gained universal plaudits for sportingly giving Day the thumbs up after being outgunned by the Australian ace down the stretch at Whistling Straits.
“Just being nice, understanding that when people win, they do a good job,” Day said.
“Like last week, when people finish and win tournaments like that, it’s hard. I know exactly how hard it is.
“So to be able to go up to people and congratulate them, make a comment on their play, it does wonders for their confidence as well.
“It’s just a nice thing to do. I think that’s just in human nature to do that.”