05 Apr 2023

Jason Day – On the comeback trail

After a challenging couple of years dealing with injuries, personal issues and a drop in form, Jason Day is on the comeback trail as he attempts to recapture the form that he showed when he became World No.1.

The Australian was one of the hottest golfers on the planet in 2015-2016, winning seven times in ten months, including a first Major at the PGA Championship and a four-stroke triumph at the Players Championship.

But a longstanding back injury and spasms that flared up periodically took their toll, not only physically but confidence-wise, with Day dropping outside of the top 150 on the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It was very humbling,” said Day when asked how he handled dropping so low.

“I was telling Luke, my caddie, at the Am Ex that I got lost going out of the golf course because they had a concert on. And I got lost and I just sat on the side of the road looking at the mountains for like 30 minutes. Because it felt like no matter what I did, I was just turning the wrong way every single time.

“I was struggling with my body. Struggling mentally. Struggling with my mum passing. Struggling with a lot of things. I think finally over the last few months I feel like things are finally settled down where I can actually focus on golf – playing golf and really just trying to do the best job I can.

“I mean, it’s hard. Because you go from being the best player in the world, everyone kind of knowing you and doing this. Then all of a sudden you’re kind of, you’re like scraping it around trying to make cuts. That can be a difficult process.

“It’s not an easy fall, but I feel like I have been nice enough to a lot of guys out there that the fall wasn’t too bad. Now I’m just trying to work myself back up.”

It seems almost unfathomable that the 35-year-old was World No.1 six long years ago.

Day spent a total of 51 weeks at the summit of the rankings across three separate spells between 2015 and 2017, although the former Major champion hasn’t tasted victory since the Wells Fargo Championship in 2018.

“When I got to No. 1 in the world back in ’15, I enjoyed the journey getting there,”  he said. “But when I got there, I didn’t know how I got there, which is interesting to say because I had a team of people around me that would just take care of everything. So they just kept the horse running, and I was just like, OK, I’m going to run in a straight line.”

When the straight line started veering off course, Day suffered his dramatic slump down the rankings, leaving the 2013 World Cup of Golf winner suddenly experiencing a very different life away from the spotlight. Something that he has missed in the barren years away from golf’s top table.

“I do miss them,” admitted Day.

“Look, I miss, obviously, talking pretty much every week and being in front of the media and playing good golf and trying to win tournaments. That’s like the big thing for most guys out here. They’re trying to get in contention. You miss those feelings on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Typically when I’m in the mix on Sundays I get no sleep that night. I miss that. I’ve been sleeping quite nicely over the last two years. And that’s, like on a Saturday night, not what I want to do. I want to have no sleep.”

Sleepless nights might once again be on the horizon for the 12-time PGA Tour winner.

Day has shot back up into the upper echelons of the game following a fine run of form in 2023, finishing inside the top 20 in the seven events he’s played, including top tens in the ‘elevated’ WM Phoenix Open, Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

That purple patch has seen him jump from 115th at the start of the year to 33rd in the rankings – his highest position since the 2020 PGA Championship.

“I feel like things are progressing in a good way swing wise and obviously with the short game as well, but I’m not really trying to project myself too far in front,” he said.

“I feel that the swing just needs to slightly improve a little bit to try and get that control back with the irons, but overall I feel very motivated to try and climb the ladder again, that’s all I can say.

“I would like to give myself a modest five (out of 10). I just feel like the level of golf that the three guys are playing right now up in the top of the world rankings, the way they’re playing, it’s very difficult to beat. I feel like if I can keep putting in the work, hopefully it’ll pay off over time.”

MASTERS RETURN

Day’s turnaround in form has seen him secure a return to the Masters after failing to quality for the first time since 2011 last year.

The timing is notable, with this month’s edition marking ten years since he finished third, just two strokes off the play-off which compatriot Adam Scott won to become the first Australian winner of the event.

It could have been Day who was creating history for the Aussies, having held the outright lead after 36 holes, but a disappointing end to his third round, where he three-putted the final two holes, knocked his momentum before a final round 70 wasn’t quite enough to get into the play-off alongside Scott and former champion Angel Cabrera.

Does Day still think about that near-miss?

“Every now and then, like when I get asked a question about it,” he said.

“You know, every now and then it feels like, ‘dang, man, I was close, I could have been the first Australian to win the Masters’.

“It’s amazing to me that it’s been ten years already. Does it spur me on to win Augusta? Yeah, every single time, this is the only Major I wanted to win when I was growing up.

“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.”

A win at the first Major Championship of the season would certainly cement Day’s return to his former glories, and you’d struggle to find a more popular champion amongst fans and his peers alike. From growing up in poverty to losing his dad at an early age, which led to  struggles with alcohol, Day’s rags to riches to riches story resonates with many.

There were times, once he had made it as a professional, that Day would just sit alone in his room, refreshing the webpage showing his bank account, not believing what he was seeing. Now in a position to give back, the 35-year-old and his wife Ellie, set up the Brighter Days Foundation, which works to meet basic needs, give hope, and support child-serving organisations in Central Ohio. In short, Day is one of golf’s good guys. 

His current spell of form is a testament to his hard work, perseverance, and dedication to the game. Injuries and personal setbacks may have hampered his progress over the last few years, but the recent success on the course has reignited his passion for the sport and reminded fans around the world of his substantial talent.

As he continues to dig deeper in a bid to get back into the winner’s circle, it’s an exciting prospect to think of a 2015-206 Jason Day going toe-to-toe with the likes of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler. Whether he’s winning Major Championships or simply inspiring others with his incredible journey, there’s no doubt that Day’s impact on golf will be felt for years to come.

Share this article
Swing Sequence

Wyndham Clark Swing Sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy One of the...

Xander Schauffele swing sequence

By Jonathan Craddock, PGA Professional, Pete Cowen Academy Xander Schauffele has...

Related articles

Upbeat McIlroy Ready for US Open After Marital Reconciliation

Rory McIlroy’s upbeat mindset ahead of this week’s US Open at...

U.S. Open Preview – Who will claim the year’s third Major?

The third Major of men’s schedule gets underway this month with...

Surviving Summer – How Courses Cope With The Heat

Words: Will Kent Photography: Provided by Stuart & Getty Images The...

Kiaan Keeps On Winning – UAE’s Latest Jnr Star

Photography & words by Will Kent Eight-year-old Kiaan Maharaj has become...

Gaudet rings the changes for women’s golf

Elisa Gaudet, Founder of Women’s Golf Day, talks exclusively to Rick...

Masters Green Jacket Thief Charged

A former warehouse assistant at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia...