22 Feb 2023 | Professional golf |

Day wants No. 1 mantle back

by Dane Heverin

Jason Day.

For the first time in roughly four years, Jason Day feels as if he can put all his energy into his performances on the golf course and the former world No. 1 is already reaping the rewards.

A third consecutive top 10 finish on the PGA Tour with a tied ninth result at the Genesis Invitational last week has vaulted Day back inside the world top 50 and is on the verge of a return to The Masters after being unable to earn an invite last year.

Becoming the second Australian to own a green jacket is not what is driving the world No. 46's resurgence from back injuries and personal issues however, instead he has sights set on being best player in the world again.

“The goal is to try and get back to No. 1 and whatever wins come in that, that's trying to get back there,” Day said.

“They’re like little steps along the way to get back to No. 1. If it happens sooner, great. If it doesn't, I'm just going to keep working hard and hopefully it happens somewhere down the road.

“I've voiced in the past before I got to No. 1 back in 2015. I used to say it all the time, ‘I want to get to No. 1, I want to get to No. 1’. You've just got to speak it into existence a little bit. It's a good time to start talking about it again.”

Day’s fall down the rankings took him all the way to 151st in the world at one stage last year and it came duirng a very difficult stage of the 35-year-old’s life.

His mother Dening passed away in March last year after a five-year battle with lung cancer, and Day was unaware until recently how much the stress of that experience was affecting him.

It brought back childhood memories of his father Alvyn’s passing – who died of stomach cancer when Day was aged 12 – and it added to the physical duress his body was under.

“I struggle pretty hard mentally I would say,” he said.

“With my mum passing, I didn't realise how much watching someone go through what she went through (would affect me), even though I watched it when I was younger but like at that time, I was too young to really kind of understand the whole situation with what was going on with my dad.

“I mean, going through that and the stress that like watching my mum go through, passing of lung cancer, that was difficult. It was hard for me to mentally stay locked out on the PGA Tour, but also that stress added to parts of the injuries that were going on with my health as well.

“Stress is a silent killer and it's something that you can't really take lightly, you've got to do something about it.”

To overcome those battles, Day continued to put in the work with his team and in the latter half of 2022, the tide began to turn with a four event stretch where he went T8, T11, T21 and T16 during October and November.

Those results emerged from the fight to overcome his golfing struggles.

“Last year was kind of like a bit of a test run in regard to some of the things I was trying to implement in my golf swing,” Day said.

“Some of the weeks it stuck and some of the weeks it didn't, but I feel like I'm kind of out of the phase of making massive changes that you can actually see to the naked eye and it's more about like the small intricate parts of the golf swing.

“I believed in my team, I believed in what Chris (Como) was telling me as a coach and what we're working towards, I believed in that. I believed in Jason Goldsmith telling me what we needed to do routine-wise. I believed in my trainers and what they were telling me to get my body back.

“It was just a matter of like having the consistency of doing it over and over again for a period of time for it to like kind of like feel okay. For a moment there I was like lost, I didn't know what to do. I was not only lost swing-wise and body-wise because I was injured and then on top of this my swing wasn't where I needed to be, I was lost mentally and all the confidence had kind of, you know, just disappeared.”

The 2015 US PGA champion's confidence in his golf swing is back and that newfound belief coupled with the hurt of having to watch The Masters, the US Open and The Open from home last year is serving as strong motivation.

“Obviously missing the majors - obviously I get to play the PGA - actually has been really tough for me to kind of sit back and watch it,” Day said.

“(The Masters) is the only major that like growing up that I wanted to win was Augusta National. So, every single time I get the chance to compete in it, I'm doing everything I possibly can to prepare and try and win that event.”

Day is skipping this week’s Honda Classic to regenerate before a big push to make certain of his place at Augusta National by staying inside the top 50 in the world.

Next up for him are the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship – events he won in 2016 – but if the desired results do not come, Day is prepared to adjust his struggle to help his ranking.

“Plan A is to play Bay Hill, Players, take a week off and then play the Match Play. Take a week off going into Augusta. But if I'm slipping outside of that, then I'll most likely play Valspar,” Day said.

“Even if I'm outside and I need to play Valero, I'll most likely try to play Valero and see if I can win that one and get in. Right now the plan is to play Bay Hill, THE PLAYERS and Match Play.”

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