Day's familiar smile back on display at Conway

By Will GraySeptember 15, 2017, 10:02 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Even now, with his game once again clicking and a smile back on his face, Jason Day sometimes shakes his head in disbelief when recalling the performance he authored at Conway Farms Golf Club two years ago.

To hear him talk of his wire-to-wire victory at the 2015 BMW Championship that took him to No. 1 in the world is to listen to someone describing an out-of-body experience. His confidence was at an all-time high, and the shots he regularly pulled off – like taking driver on the narrow third hole – now seem unfathomable, even to him.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever get back there,” Day said. “Even if I did hit an errant shot, it didn’t matter. I’d go in there with a good attitude. [It] always seemed like I had a better lie and better bounces. And when you have kind of this year, my attitude hasn’t been as great as it should have been on the golf course.”

Ask any pro, or even your typical weekend hacker, and you’ll hear a familiar refrain: when the game is clicking, it feels like the birdies will never stop. But when it turns cold, the notion of a turnaround borders on impossible.

It’s certainly been a lean year for Day, one that started with him as the world’s top-ranked golfer and saw him show up to this week’s event without a spot in the Tour Championship assured. It’s been a humbling journey that included time off as his mother battled cancer, and more recently included the decision to part ways with longtime caddie Col Swatton.

The various ups and downs, both on and off the course, have taken their toll.

“I lost a little confidence in myself and my game, and the ability to go out and get the win,” Day said.

But Friday under sunny skies at Conway Farms, the toothy grin returned after a hole-in-one on No. 17, and Day’s easygoing nature was back in full swing. He carded a 6-under 65 that vaulted him into a tie for second place behind Marc Leishman.


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While the change at caddie this week offers an easy explanation for his sudden resurgence, Day believes the root cause is an internal one.

“At the start of the year, I felt like I was kind of fighting an uphill battle with myself, trying to force things too much,” he said. “I feel like I’m just kind of relaxed out there right now. Even after the hole-in-one, I wasn’t even amped. I felt like my heart would be pounding more, but I kind of went about my business. That tells me my mind is in the right spot.”

Day lost a playoff to Billy Horschel at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, and that proved to be a rare highlight in an otherwise underwhelming campaign. After holding the top seed to begin the 2016 playoffs, the Aussie entered this week No. 28, in danger of missing East Lake for the first time since 2012.

But Day need only look back to last year for a source of inspiration, as Rory McIlroy flipped a mediocre season on its head with a pair of postseason wins that netted the FedExCup title. It’s a goal that’s not especially far-fetched for Day after two more rounds of dominance at Conway Farms, where he tied for fourth in 2013 and bent the course to his will two years ago.

Sixteen months removed from his most recent worldwide win at the 2016 Players Championship, Day appreciates how much a single victory can alter the perception of an entire season.

“I think at the least you need to win at least once to have a successful year,” Day said. “If you won, that means you’ve done something good to keep things going. I mean, it’s not weighing heavy on my mind. I just know that I kind of need to focus on what I have done. I know that I can do it.”

Day has always been a player who leans heavily on mental prep and visualization, but this week he has found success in taking his foot off the gas. It’s an ebb and flow for players at the top level, all of whom vacillate throughout the year while trying to find the sparse middle ground that yields both ample focus and a sufficiently loose approach.

“You definitely can’t play this game I would say for a long period of time stressed out, or not being relaxed, just because of how much we do play, how much pressure there can be,” said Rickie Fowler, who sits alongside Day at 13 under through two rounds. “The more you can be mentally relaxed or rested, it takes a lot of stress and kind of pressure off of your game.”

The heights of 2015 may continue to prove elusive for Day. But with the birdies once again falling at Conway Farms, they still serve as a reminder of just how much talent he possesses – and how quickly the smile can return once the game starts trending in the right direction.

Relaxed and imbued with an extra jolt of confidence, Day has adjusted his goals from simply making the 30-man field at East Lake to leaving this week with a trophy that could put a much-needed positive spin on an otherwise trying season.

“Priorities change as the years go on,” Day said. “Seeing the last two days, I know I still have it in myself to be able to hit the correct shots and go out there and try and win.”

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 six 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."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."