Despite injuries, Day optimistic about future

By Rex HoggardJanuary 4, 2017, 12:01 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – In the fall of 2006, those who make the important decisions at TaylorMade Golf had a heady choice – sign little-known prospect Jason Day to an endorsement deal or Anthony Kim?

The company opted for the Australian blue-chipper, perhaps because of Kim’s rough-and-tumble past at the University of Oklahoma. Or maybe it was Day’s potential global appeal.

Whatever the reason, the decision paid off. Although Kim won three times in his first three years on the PGA Tour he hasn’t played since 2012 and has become something of an urban legend, with the occasional sighting only fueling the curious reasons behind his disappearance.

Day on the other hand begins 2017 No. 1 in the world following a three-win season in ’16, he’s won a major (2015 PGA Championship) and is a model citizen with an impressive lineup of endorsement opportunities, including a new clothing deal with Nike that reportedly is worth $10 million a year.

Yet beneath all that momentum and upside was a very real sense of uncertainty on Tuesday when he spoke at the SBS Tournament of Champions.

The 29-year-old hasn’t played on Tour since the Thursday of the Tour Championship in September, sidelined by a back injury that caused him to withdraw from the season finale.


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“It’s been a while,” he smiled on Tuesday at Kapalua.

If there is cause for concern when it comes to Day – and, to be honest, any time someone misses starts because of a balky back there is reason to worry – it wasn’t coming from the 10-time Tour winner.

That’s not his style.

Although he conceded that the last three frigid months cooped up in Columbus, Ohio, was varying shades of “miserable,” he begins 2017 feeling fit and “cautiously optimistic.”

He’s been here before. At the 2015 U.S. Open he suffered from a dramatic case of benign positional vertigo, missed two months in ’14 with a left-thumb injury and withdrew from the Masters in ’13 with an ankle injury.

As impressive as Day has been on the course during his career, his inability to avoid the DL has been just as incomprehensible.

For Day, the cautionary tale of a world-class athlete derailed in his prime by a back injury is no further away than a text message. He grew up idolizing Tiger Woods, basing his unrivaled work ethic on a second-hand book written about the 14-time major champion, and has become a friend and confidant of the former world No. 1 in recent years.

Day has seen firsthand the ravages a back injury can have on even the most talented and conditioned player, but as temperatures dropped into single digits in Ohio the last few weeks he contended there were no foreboding moments.

This current injury, which he described as an annular ligament tear between his L4/L5 disc, can be controlled, Day said. He explained that through treatment and strengthening and a shorter back swing he can keep his ailing back from dictating the terms of his career like it has for Woods, who missed all of the 2016 season following multiple back procedures.

When asked if there was a moment over the past few weeks when he embraced the prospect of his professional mortality, Day said his current bout with his body wasn’t nearly as concerning as the thumb injury he endured in 2014.

“I actually thought I was going to have to quit the game because of the thumb, because I literally couldn't hold the club,” he said. “You can get away with a bad back a little bit every now and then; you can kind of get through it.”

His injured thumb, however, lingered for months, at one point requiring three cortisone injections in four weeks.

“I remember sitting there and they would pull the thumb, so the knuckle could expand and they could inject in between the knuckle,” Day recalled. “It hurt, I mean, like hell, it hurt so bad. I was just trying to get some sort of numbness so I could actually hold the club.”

By comparison, Day’s most recent medical setback only required time and patience, not to mention a healthy dose of perspective born from countless trips to the Tour fitness trailer.

“I feel like you're always trying to say, ‘I feel good and I'm past it,’ but with back injuries, I think you probably look at it, 90 percent of the players probably have some back injury or back symptom that could possibly pop up at any time,” he said.

A decade after TaylorMade bet on Day his upside remains indisputable. Long even by Tour standards with a superior putting touch (he was first in 2016 in strokes gained: putting), Day is still the player with the most consistent and well-rounded game even if all that talent comes with a growing list of concerning medical question marks.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."