Jason Day tees off in round four in Hawaii on his way to a 70. Image: Getty
Jason Day's return from a three-month injury lay-off ended positively at Kapalua in Hawaii today.
The Australian, who remains world No. 1, is set for a finish just outside the top 10 in the SBS Tournament of Champions, with American Justin Thomas and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama jockeying for the win.
Day closed with a two-under par 70 today and tied-12th, but the highlight came at the end, when his 225-metre long iron second shot to the par-five 18th hole rolled up to four metres from the cup. The 29-year-old stepped up and holed the putt, his only eagle of the week.
"I think there's a lot of positives I need to take away from this week,'' he told Golf Channel afterward. "I drove it pretty solid, hit a lot of good quality shots to the greens. I need to tighten it up more so with proximity, but the putting wasn't quite there. It was a decent week. Obviously being No. 1 in the world , even though I did have three months off, I'm expecting to come out and win. It was solid but there were some soft areas out there.''
Day said his back was okay and that he had not been overly concerned about it. "The back held up great. I've just got to stay diligent, keep being disciplined with what I eat and how I go about the process of getting stronger, If that works out, then perfect.''
Day's ball-striking has proven to be on-song -- he hit better than 80 percent of greens in regulation over the four days on the Plantation course -- but his putting was well below the standard that saw him ranked No. 1 on the tour last season.
None of which is surprising since he has not played at all since the tour playoffs in September, 2016, as he rested up a back injury. Day will continue his return at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines from 26 January.
The other Australians were farther back, with Queenslander Rod Pampling completing a nice week, finishing 17th, Aaron Baddeley 25th and Greg Chalmers 28th in the limited field.
Thomas won the year's first tour event but it was a fight to the near-death with Matsuyama, not decided until the Japanese player three-putted at the 17th and Thomas rolled in a birdie from close range to take a three-shot lead.
Meanwhile the new tour commissioner Jay Monahan has announced that the tournament could feature both the top men's and women's players in a simultaneous tournament next year, showing that Golf Victoria's simultaneous Vic Open has caught notice.
"We would like to see that happen. We have some interest from sponsors,'' said Monahan.
The US PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour signed a strategic partnership recently, and Monahan wants more cooperation in terms of tournaments.
"We are spending more time talking about how do we drive more people to the game, both men and women, girls and boys," Monahan told Golf Channel. "Can we potentially get men and women into the same field of play? Again, another thing that no other sport can do, and then looking at media. Are there some shared efficiencies with how we present our tours to the world at large?"
The VicOpen has been a simultaneous men's and women's tournament since 2012.