Jason Day is at the forefront of a bold new dawn for Australian golf.
While there have been many contenders over the years, Day, along with a revitalised Adam Scott, looks best placed to replicate the impact of Greg Norman on the world stage.
After a magical 2011, Day, along with captain Norman, will carry the hopes of multiple nations on his shoulders in the upcoming Presidents Cup. His year was highlighted by second place finishes in consecutive majors, catapulting the Queenslander to No 7 in the world and the top ranked player on the international team.
Playing on home soil, expectations will be huge as the international side look to break a victory drought that stretches back to 1998, notably the last time the event was held in Melbourne.
"To play down in Australia for the first time in the team and to get the No. 1 pick is amazing," says Day. "At the start of the year I would have been happy to be on the team. To be the No. 1 pick is an amazing accomplishment [but] it doesn't add any pressure. It is not an individual event; its more about the teamwork [and] getting the job done with team-mates."
Although he has never appeared here as a professional, Day retains a soft spot for this country. He has played on famous courses across the globe but found his own slice of heaven just north of the Auckland Harbour bridge. "The 16th and 17th holes at Gulf Harbour are the best golf holes I have ever played, by far," he told the Herald on Sunday "Especially hitting over the ocean - on the 16th when you hit over the corner of the ocean," he says of the 405m 'Te Moko', played off the top of the cliffs.
Day played the 2005 New Zealand Open there and the picturesque course clearly made quite an impression.
"We played it in terrible weather but it was the best feeling [and] the best round of golf I ever walked," says Day. "It was a long walk but it was a fun event and the scenery and the views that you capture were amazing."
Unlike previous years, when the likes of Greg Turner, Frank Nobilo and Michael Campbell have featured, there are no Kiwis among the internationals team taking on a powerful USA lineup. Day and Scott are joined by Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Y.E. Yang, US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen among others.
"I think our whole team is very hungry to go down there and perform," says Day. "We have a unique team, a lot of young guys, a lot of old guys. I think it's a good mixture and hopefully we can play as one and win this thing."
Day's mature, confident words belie his tender years. Still only 23, the Australian has done a lot of growing up in the last few years. After a dream start to his professional career - as an 18-year-old in 2006 he made five of his first six cuts on the PGA tour and banked US$160,000 (NZ$194,000) - but then a harsher reality set in.
"At the start I thought I was going to come out and kill it," says Day. "Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way. I've slowly worked my way back up to where I believe I can be but I know that it's going to take a while."
He failed to secure his tour card for 2007 but grabbed one the next year via the Nationwide Tour. He struggled over the next two years before a breakthrough in 2010, becoming the youngest Australian to win an event on the PGA tour.
His display at Augusta this year, where he was tied for the lead on the final Sunday before eventually finishing second behind Schwartzel and shot the lowest score (12 under par) for a first time participant, made him a household name. He backed it up with another top two finish at the US Open (behind an irresistible Mcllroy) and is now one of the hottest properties on the circuit.
He says his life hasn't really changed, apart from constantly getting recognised in airports across America and the much increased sponsor and media obligations.
Day is one of a dozen touring PGA pros that own a RV trailer complete with four televisions, two bathrooms and three bedrooms. He rarely drives it himself to the course - it is transported for them - but does provide a home base, sometimes parked at the back of the course.