CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jason Day’s swagger — and his motivation — have returned.
“I’m hungry again — and I’m looking forward to trying to beat these guys,” Day said Wednesday on the eve of the 99th PGA Championship.
Day is in the midst of what he called a “very poor season” with only two top 10 finishes and no wins in 15 starts. But the world’s former No. 1 player feels like he’s about to turn the corner after finishing tied for 24th last week at Bridgestone.
He’s also drawing confidence from his past success at the PGA Championship, winning at Whistling Straits in 2015 and finishing second last year to Jimmy Walker at Baltusrol. His renewed confidence may not be good news for the rest of the field this week. Jordan Spieth is aiming for a career grand slam.
“I’m motivated now,” said Day, who withdrew from a tournament in March to be with his cancer-stricken mother.
His best finish this year is second at the AT&T Byron Nelson, where he lost a playoff to Billy Horschel.
Day entered the season as the top-ranked player but has since dropped to No. 7 — something that he says “annoys and motivates me at the same time.”
He made it clear his goal is to get back on top — and anticipates that will start with a strong performance this week at Quail Hollow.
The 29-year-old Australian said his passion waned late last season after getting “burned out.” Looking back, Day felt like he spread himself too thin trying to fulfill obligations and spending less time practicing and relaxing.
“I was trying to do too many things,” he said.
By the time the end of last year rolled around, Day said he was exhausted after spending nearly a full year as the top-ranked player.
That pressure, along with his mother’s lung cancer surgery in March, led to a rough start to the 2017 season. He tearfully pulled out of the Match Play Championship six holes in, too distraught to play, to join her ahead of the surgery.
“It was difficult for me to be on the golf course and even think about actually playing at the time,” Day said.
On the course, his driving deteriorated and his normally reliable short game eluded him. In short, he felt like his game plateaued.
“You’re not panicking or anything, you’re just wondering why,” Day said. “You’re up at night thinking about, ‘OK, what do I need to do to get back to that winning room?'”
If Day does get back to No. 1, he’s vowed to handle things differently. In some ways, he’s already done that.
He didn’t arrive in Charlotte until Tuesday night and checked in to the tournament on Wednesday morning so he could spend more time at home in Ohio away from distractions.
Day refuses to call this a lost season.
Sure, he’s finished out of contention at the Masters (tied for 22nd), the U.S. Open (cut) and the British Open (tied for 27th), but he believes his putting and driving are coming back.
And he harkens back to 2014 when he finished the year strong, which served as a springboard for two incredible seasons.
“I want to win again,” Day said. “So I’m excited about that.”