On Tuesday during his pre-tourney presser at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, world no. 3 Jason Day talked about handling the pressure that comes along with reaching world no. 1 — which the Australian held for a brief stint after winning the BMW Championship last September. Day’s year has been off to a slow start — mostly because he’s only played in four tournaments (and two of them were limited field events) in 2016, with his best finish being T11 at Pebble Beach.
But compared to Spieth’s crazy worldwide, whirlwind of a schedule, Day’s looks much more balanced and relaxed. I mean, Spieth went to defend his title at the Australian Open last winter and Day, who is actually Australian, didn’t even bother making the trip to play. While Spieth has only made five starts on the PGA Tour this year, he’s also competed on other tours in the Middle East and Asia. Relatively speaking, Spieth has racked up quite a bit more travel mileage over the last few months, and that can be exhausting at any age, but the 22-year-old American doesn’t have two young children like Day does.
“I’m worried about him because I don’t know if he’s playing too much and he’s doing too many things with golf and sponsor obligations that he might make — may get burned out and go through a rut where he doesn’t want to be on the golf course for awhile,” said Day, who recalled a period in 2012 where he felt like that.
“Everyone goes through that. I’ve told a few people on my team I’m kind of worried about him because of what he’s kind of putting himself under.
“He has played a lot of golf, especially the last few years. You can look at his world ranking and how many events he’s played over the last couple years and you can see that he’s kind of wearing himself out.
“So, I mean that part of it has a huge, huge — obviously part to it but there’s just so much. Once again, there’s so much that people are wanting. The timing issue is hard because everyone wants a piece of you. I wish you could multiply yourself because there’s not enough of us to really do it.”
Day, who openly admits that his wife tweets for him, isn’t as social-media savvy as most of his contemporaries, like Spieth, who got a little frustrated last week with random people making dumb comments, world no. 2 Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
“It’s a little different because for me I’m not as popular as those guys and I understand that,” said Day. “I’m kind of a boring person whereas Rory is really — I mean Rory, Rickie are very popular. They’re the popular kids in school. Jordan is getting that popular, starting to become a lot more popular and I’m just a nerd in the back which is fine.
“I’m totally fine with it. That’s just kind of my personality. I’m kind of the quiet person. Like I say, I’m not much into social media and these guys are big into it.”
Day is far from the nerd — he’s just not that concerned with what people are saying about him. He’s one of the few people who actually doesn’t pay attention to what the media is writing or jabbering. (Lot of them say they don’t, but you know they’re reading everything on the internet about them and watching Golf Channel 24/7.) He’s more concerned about getting his game back to where it was at the end of last summer, when he won four events in eight starts, including his first major at the PGA Championship.
“I don’t read any comments, I don’t read any articles about myself, just for the sheer fact I don’t want to read negative comments because there are a lot of people that — in unfortunate situations like to bring people down and I like to see people succeed,” said Day. “And I don’t like to read that stuff, so I just kind of stay away from all the comments and even if someone says something bad about me on social media it doesn’t worry me at all because I’m not going to please everyone. I can’t please everyone.
“The only thing that I can do is please myself and only way I can please myself if I work hard, get the results, get my confidence and start winning more tournaments.”
Day’s start to the year has been slow, to say the least. He hasn’t sniffed being in contention and simply hasn’t made it into the conversation as much as Spieth, Rory and/or Rickie have already early in the season. He failed to successfully defend his title at Torrey Pines, where he was sick, and ended up missing the cut.
“It hasn’t been the greatest,” said Day, referring to his year thus far. “I mean with the expectation of everyone and then obviously the expectation of myself thinking that I should be coming out here and contending and competing even after a three month layoff, it’s still pretty high.
“It hasn’t quite panned out the way I obviously planned to but, you know, I still have to kind of psych myself up in the process of what I need to do to get back to what I was doing last year and that’s obviously competing and playing and winning at a high level as well.
“So, I was hitting it a lot better last year but, you know, it’s only early on the season and, you know, I’ve got two weeks in a row here that I can get things going.”
Day is hoping to get some momentum at Bay Hill this week and then the WGC-Match Play Championship, which is being held in Austin for the first time next week. And the problem isn’t due to a lack of effort by any means.
“The motivation has always been there,” said Day. “I still want to be the best. I want to get back to No. 1 but these things take time. It’s not like something you can click a button and it happens over night.
“There’s so many factors that go into playing well out here all the time and once you find that kind of that blueprint or that little moment everything clicks together and start playing well again.”