It was a marathon day Friday at the WM Phoenix Open.
In Jason Day’s case, the 35-year-old Aussie logged 26 holes, carding three birdies, one bogey and all the rest pars as he battled stiff winds, swarming crowds and slow play. While there is still catching up for the field to do after a Thursday morning frost delay, Day has reached his midway checkpoint, through two rounds at 6 under and four shots shy of leader Scottie Scheffler.
“I'm glad I'm in the house,” Day said, exhaling, “and I'm just going to go rest up.”
He’s hoping he’ll need that extra rest.
In a perfect world, Day will sleep Saturday night like he's renting a suite inside TPC Scottsdale's 16th hole.
When Day was enjoying his time atop the Official World Golf Ranking – 51 weeks to be exact, last giving up the throne in February 2017 – he was winning prolifically and sleeping little.
“Typically, when I'm in the mix on Sundays I get no sleep that night,” Day said. “I miss that. I've been sleeping quite nicely over the last two years. And that's, like on a Saturday night, that's not what I want to do. I want to have no sleep.”
Day won five times in 2015, and he lifted three titles the next year to go along with seven other top-10s. But in recent years, he’s been in a world-rankings freefall. As his body, particularly his back, broke down and his game followed suit, Day reached as low as No. 175 last fall. Once the best putter on Tour, from a strokes-gained perspective, Day has finished outside the top 60 in three straight seasons. His mental game strayed from being a strength, and the death of his mother, Dening, last March knocked him down even more; Day missed three straight cuts when he returned, at The Players, and then took five weeks off.
The only times he’s usually awake at 1 a.m. these days is when he’s on the phone with his instructor of over a year, Chris Como, discussing the latest swing thought that will allow Day to swing freely again.
Initially, it was all body-motion work to take stress off Day's back. Now, it's the "small little minutia of small, tiny, little changes."
"Like keeping the left arm internally rotated at impact," Day explains. "But also just making sure that the forearms kind of turn over, but keeping that left arm in and the right arm underneath. But then it's all of that release pattern stuff and getting it up and out of the way.
"Yeah, I could go, I could talk for hours and hours. I'm so obsessed..."
Day admits the comeback remains a work in progress, but it has been nice to string together some nice results in recent months – a T-8 at Shriners, T-11 at CJ Cup and T-7 at Farmers, plus three other top-25s in his past seven starts.
He's also climbed back inside the top 100 in the world, to No. 91, and began this week inside the Tour's top 40 in three strokes-gained categories – off the tee (40th), approach (18th) and putting (39th).
“It's been really difficult to change the swing and compete out here,” Day said. “… I've had to make those changes because of my body. Unfortunately, I'm going through the testing phase right now of trying to change that as I compete. That can be difficult. Because you wake up some days it's like absolutely good and perfect, and some days it's just, you know – like, I mean, first round to second round here, it's just totally different. It's amazing. But I'm just grinding away trying to do the best job I can.”
For Day, that means hitting a fade that’s far more “wipey” than “Jon Rahm bullet.”
“And that’s OK,” Day adds. “I’m OK with that.”
Full-field scores from the WM Phoenix Open
Day shared a story Friday from a few weeks ago at The American Express, where he got lost leaving the golf course one day. He ended up spending a half-hour just sitting on the side of the road and staring at the mountains.
It's the perfect microcosm for what Day’s been going through since his last victory, at the Wells Fargo Championship ... in 2018.
“It felt like no matter what I did, I was just turning the wrong way every single time,” Day explained. “I was struggling with my body. Struggling mentally. Struggling with my mom passing. Struggling with a lot of things. I think finally over the last few months I feel like things are finally settled down where I can actually focus on golf and playing golf and really just trying to do the best job I can.
“Yeah, I mean, it's hard. Because you go from being the best player in the world, everyone kind of knowing you and doing this. Then all of a sudden, you know, you're like scraping it around trying to make cuts. That can be a difficult process.
“It's not an easy fall. … Now, I'm just trying to work myself back up.”
Literally, he's tired of dreaming.