26 Aug 2020 | Professional golf |

Day aims for pinnacle, with Tiger's help

by Martin Blake

Jason Day Boston image
Jason Day wants to be world No. 1 again. Photo: Getty

Jason Day says he is on a mission to regain the No. 1 world ranking that he held for almost a year in 2015-16, the peak of his golf career.

And Day says that he is leaning on his friend Tiger Woods for advice about how to play and prepare for golf with a serious back injury and without a swing coach.

Day, currently the world No. 34 and winless for the past two years, told media on a conference call today that he had “recommitted” himself to the game at the time he parted ways with longtime coach and mentor Col Swatton several months ago.

“I’m very motivated to get back to No. 1 in the world,” he said. “I know that currently I’m 35th in the world right now and there are a lot of young guys out there, but the good thing about golf is that it really doesn’t matter how far you hit it when you come out, or how good a touch you have around the greens. You have to put everything together.

“It’s not like any other sport, in regards to like football or cricket or anything like that and a guy comes in and he’s just that much more athletic, and you can’t do anything about it. Golf … there’s the experience part, the mental part, and you’ve got to put all that stuff together and play some good golf.

“I feel like my game is only starting to … I feel like I understand my game a lot more and with the experience that I have, I’ll be able to handle being No. 1 a lot better than what I did in the past.’’

Day said his hunger remained strong. “My whole purpose in golf now is to get myself back to No. 1 because I don’t feel like it’s good enough for me at 35 in the world, when I know that I can still be No. 1 in the world.”

The Australian was No. 1 for 51 weeks in 2015-16 at the same time he won his first and only major, the 2015 PGA Championship. But he acknowledges now that he was distracted and overwrought when he reached the pinnacle. “I struggled a lot with the expectations of being No. 1 and expecting the No. 1 player in the world to compete and play well every single week. Unfortunately, I tried to work as hard as I possibly could and burned myself out – mentally and physically.”

Day, 32, reached out to Woods recently and found the former world No. 1 receptive, although they’re competitors in the same space. It is a fascinating dynamic in that sense, with Woods making his way after a significant back surgery, and Day having his own recurring issues.

“He’s gone through some back issues and I think he’s doing a lot of good things to alleviate his pain … I just feel like I ask questions and he’s willing to answer,’’ Day said.

He also says that he has taken a conscious decision to change his swing to protect his back, swinging more gently. Not only that, he spends two hours of every day undertaking massage and stretching to get himself ready. “I’m not 21 anymore and I understand where I’m at in my career with my body. If I want to add more years on my career I have to put in the work.

"I currently feel tremendous and I feel great with my body and hopefully everything keeps moving in that direction. The moment that I stop or I’m not disciplined on my body is the moment that you can have hiccups.”

It feels like Day is entering a new phase; a more mature phase in which he cannot overpower a course like he used to. “I can get the club speed up to 120 (miles per hour) and the ball speed to 180 easy, if I want to, but I don’t try and do that anymore because I don’t think it’s great on my back going that hard.”

The changes have seen him log four top-10 finishes in a row before last week’s missed cut in Boston, where the alterations impacted on him. “I had no clue what the ball was going to do.’’

But he’s not searching for a new coach to replace Swatton, who picked him up as a teenager in Queensland. “In the immediate term I’m not going to search for anyone. Until I really feel like I need an expert to talk about the subject.”

Day is playing the BMW Championship in Chicago this week as the 2019-20 PGA Tour season winds up towards the Tour Championship in Atlanta. “I’ve always wanted to put myself in the top 30 and give myself a chance of wining the Fedex Cup,’’ he said.

“The last two seasons have been disappointing. The good thing is I’m playing better. Obviously last week wasn’t the way things should’ve panned out for me, but overall the game is there. I’m building some momentum and confidence going forward.”

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