by Sue Pascoe
Jason Day, the 29-year-old Australian golfer, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, will seek the Genesis Open championship this week at the Riviera Country Club.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Day spoke about the last time he played this course, in 2012, beforehand he ascended into golf’s top echelon.
“I think my best finish here is like 50‑something, which is terrible,” said Day, who then joked, “Looking at that, you probably shouldn’t tee it up.”
A reporter reminded him that his best finish was actually a tie for 62nd (in 2012). In two previous appearances, he failed to make the 36-hole cut.
“With that said, I feel like I’m a better player now than I was however many years ago I actually entered and played in this tournament,” said Day, who won three tournaments in 2016. “I’m very positive about how things are progressing in my game and looking forward to the week. I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep playing and keep fighting on forward.”
Day, who tied for 5th at Pebble Beach last Sunday (after shooting a 75 on Saturday), was asked about the state of his game as the PGA Tour kicks into high gear.
“The short game’s coming along nicely, which is great,” Day said. “Chipping and putting seems like it’s coming back. Obviously, the hitting’s a little bit lagging behind, but with a bit of practice and thinking of the right stuff, hopefully that changes. I feel good about this week.”
Day was born in Beaudesert, Queensland, to an Australian father and a Philippino mother. He started golfing on his sixth birthday. Day’s father died when he was 12 and his mother sent him to the Kooralbyn International School, which had a golf course attached. Later he attended Hills International College, where he borrowed a book about Tiger Woods from his roommate.
“Yeah, golf is everything to me right now,” Day said Tuesday. “It’s always been everything to me. Ever since I was a kid all I could think about was, how do I improve? How do I get better to win the next tournament?”
He was asked about Tiger’s latest setback, having to withdraw from the Genesis Open. “It’s hard. I just don’t know, I’ve never had surgeries on my back before,” said Day, who has still suffered back problems with a L4-L5 bulged disc. “Obviously, I don’t know what the feeling is coming back from a back surgery let alone three back surgeries and then flying across to Dubai, 20 hours or so from San Diego, and then having to fly back here.”
Day said he’d like to see Tiger back playing competitively, without the golfer having to worry about his injury.
Depending on how this week’s tournament goes for Day, Dustin Johnson (No. 3 in the world) or Hideki Matsuyama (ranked No. 5) could move him out of the top position, which he has held since March 2016.
“It’s a pride thing,” Day said. “At the end of your career, you want to know how many weeks you were at number one. To get there even for one week is pretty special. No one can take that away from you.”
Like most top golfers, Day said he doesn’t focus on world rankings when he’s playing. “The more you attach yourself to it, you make mental errors out there, you get more frustrated, you do silly things on the golf course that you shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “I need to focus on hitting the shot in front of me, going to the next shot and hitting that and trying to beat everyone else.
“Winning takes care of everything. If someone takes it off me, I’m okay with it,” Day said. “I’m not going to be angry or sad about it. Just goes to show that I need to work harder, need to be smarter and try and win more tournaments.”
He spoke to reporters about the pressure of being on top. “Being number one in the world is tough. It really is. It’s exciting. It’s a good place to be,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world even though it’s mentally and sometimes physically demanding because once again, you’re out doing everything, you’re seeing the fans, seeing the media, trying to play competitive golf and then you go back home and you’re trying to be the number one dad as well.”
Day and his wife, Ellie, have two children, Lucy and Dash.
He wasn’t that concerned with rain predictions on Friday because “I feel like I’m a pretty good mud runner when it comes to bad weather. I feel confident about my game. Hopefully I can beat these guys this week. It would be nice.”