World no. 1 and local resident Jason Day is well aware of his poor record at The Memorial Tournament, held at his home course Muirfield Village Golf Club. Before he even teed off, first-round leader Dustin Johnson had already posted an eight-under 64, so Day knew he had a tough act to follow.
He recalled the advice he received earlier this week from tournament host Jack Nicklaus: Just play within yourself and stay patient.
While Day didn’t quite catch Johnson, he shot his best score in 23 tournament rounds, a six-under 66 (which included two three-putts). He’s currently tied for third.
When told it was his lowest competitive round at Muirfield, Day thought he had shot 65 once. Nope. And when corrected that his previous best was 67, he cracked, “Oh, man. I probably shot 65 off the ladies tees the week before.”
Day, however, was still pleased with his start.
“Today I hit it nice from tee to green, gave myself opportunities on the greens and then also capitalized on those,” said Day. “I’m pleased because usually I come into this event and start pretty poorly, maybe put a little too much pressure on myself. It is my home course, and you want to play well, and you want to win this tournament because of Mr. Nicklaus and what he’s done with the golf tournament and the golf course as well. A lot of history behind this.”
Day’s previous best finish at The Memorial came in 2009 when he finished T27.
“I don’t know, I just sucked,” said Day, referring to his poor record at this event. “To be honest, I would love to go, yeah, this is it. I had distractions at home, or the course wasn’t that great, or I had a bad draw, or whatever, but it’s not. I just played terrible and kept on playing terrible for a good period of time.
“There’s a little bit of added pressure with being home course. Everyone is expecting you to play well, and then my expectation of you have to play well, as well.”
But that was before Day became the no. 1 player in the world, with seven wins in his last 17 starts, including, most recently, The Players Championship.
“Right now I can’t focus on the end result,” said Day. “I’ve got to focus on trying to get through tomorrow’s round and then Saturday and Sunday. But off to a great start. I’m very pleased with that because usually I’ve struggled here early, but I’m happy.”
Day hopes to keep the momentum going in the right direction, but also knows he can’t get frustrated when things don’t go his way. What it will boil down to is how he handles his mental game.
“When it comes to at this level, it’s more about how you control the upstairs and more than anything,” he said. “Everyone has their technical things that they’re trying to work on and their mental things they’re trying to work on, but when it comes down to it, it’s just really trying to you’re playing within yourself, you’re playing against yourself. You’re playing against other guys, but you can’t control what they’re doing.”