Carolina Hurricanes

Canes defenseman has a PGA connection

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman James Wisniewski was at Whistling Straits last month when Jason Day won the PGA Championship.

Wisniewski also was at Chambers Bay for the U.S. Open, following Day in the final round.

“It’s always good to go out and support a good friend,” Wisniewski said.

The two became friends a few years ago, during the NHL lockout. Day, an Australian, lives outside Columbus, Ohio. Wisniewski was playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the two hooked up at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Jack Nicklaus’ course in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.

Wisniewski, a scratch golfer, often has joined Day for a round at Muirfield when Day’s schedule allowed him to be home in Columbus. During the 2013 Memorial tournament, the guy known as the “Wiz” served as Day’s caddie during a practice round at Muirfield.

“A lot of times I’d go practice with him, and I learned about the work ethic those guys have,” Wisniewski said. “They’re at the golf course nine hours. They work on putting for three hours, wedges for two hours, chipping two hours, long irons for an hour and driving for an hour. It makes for a long day, but it’s good to learn from one of the best in the world.”

Wisniewski joined former Jackets teammates Brandon Dubinsky and Jared Boll in flying out to the U.S. Open, where Day, fighting a case of vertigo, couldn’t chase down Jordan Spieth. But Day captured his first major championship at the PGA, beating Spieth by three shots, to claim the Wanamaker Trophy.

It was Day’s much-anticipated first major and Wisniewski said there will be more.

“He’s hungry now,” he said. “He’s here to stay.”

Day, third in the Official World Golf Ranking behind Rory McIlroy and Spieth, now has the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup championship in his sights. He won The Barclays, the first tournament in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and leads the FedEx standings heading into this week’s BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Il.

Spieth is second in the standings and Rickie Fowler, the winner of the Deutsche Bank Championship, has moved into third.

“It’s going to be an exciting next 10 or 12 years for golf with these young studs,” Wisniewski said. “It could be exciting every week.”

Day, whose wife is an Ohio native, attends Blue Jackets games when he can and has skated with the team. There’s a chance he’ll see Wisniewski play again – against the Jackets.

The Canes traded goalie Anton Khudobin to the Anaheim Ducks in June to get Wisniewski, 31, who has played 575 regular-season and playoff games. The veteran was brought in to help bolster the blue line, help the power play and help develop such young defensemen as a Noan Hanifin, Ryan Murphy, Haydn Fleury and others.

Wisniewski had seven goals and 44 assists with Columbus in the 2013-2014 season, finishing with a career-high 51 points. He had eight goals – seven on the power play – and 21 assists in 56 games last season before being dealt to the Ducks.

Wisniewski said a hairline foot fracture was a setback, keeping him out for 10 days after the trade. Ostensibly acquired to help the Ducks in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he did not appear in a playoff game.

“When I went there the intensity was ramping up with teams in the West making playoff pushes,” he said. “Not doing anything for 10 days and then trying to get into a new system was really tough for me.”

After the trade to Carolina, Wisniewski talked with Canes coach Bill Peters, who sent him a 10-minute video clip of plays in the Peters system.

“I didn’t want to come in blind and the clips gave me a good feel for things,” he said.

Wisniewski, who spent much of the summer training in Columbus, said he talked with Day during his seven-hour drive to Raleigh. He’ll be tracking him closely in the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But it’s time for hockey. Training camp starts this week. As Wisniewski said: “It’s time to get started.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip