‘I’ve just got to be cautious’: Jason Day is using a unique practice strategy at the PGA
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jason Day thought he may never play competitive golf again.
After a meteoric rise to the top of the game — including a major victory and claim as world No. 1 — injuries began to derail the Aussie’s career. A balky back kept him in consistent pain, and just playing golf — let alone contending — was no small feat.
“I was just struggling,” Day said last week. “My thought process was to go, ‘Okay, what’s my contract minimum that I have to play?’ It’s 20 events. Can’t practice Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday really. If I’m playing the pro-am then I’ll struggle to get through that, that’s fine, I’ll get through that. Get in Thursday, Friday, if I make the cut, great, and if I don’t, that’s a tick off the tournament list.”
The injury woes, plus a chronic battle with vertigo and seeing to his ailing mother’s health, made for a brutal stretch. The wins, which at one point came in bunches, dried up as Day fell to as low as 175th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“To be honest,” he said. “I was very close to calling it quits.”
Through it all, Day persevered. His health slowly got better, and his swing followed suit. Since last October, Day’s game has gone nowhere but up. He’s made 13 cuts in that stretch, with 12 of them being top 25s, culminating in a win — his first in five years — at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
“It’s amazing how quickly confidence in this game can change,” Day said.
But while the win was great for the confidence, it did come at a cost. After a physically and emotionally exhausting week in Texas, Day has arrived at this week’s PGA Championship a bit worn down.
When speaking with the media on Wednesday, Day admitted that the physical toll would affect his preparation for the year’s second major. So much so that he’ll be flying blind come Thursday morning.
“I haven’t played the course,” Day said. “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the course. I most likely probably won’t see the course today. I’m just not fighting anything, I just want to make sure that I’m mentally prepared and mentally ready for tomorrow. No matter how well I prepare, even if I go out and play a practice round, if I come in tomorrow tired and exhausted, it won’t do me any favors, so I’m just going to try and take it easy.”
According to those on site at Oak Hill, Day instead spent Wednesday dialing in his short game around the practice facilities. But while the 2015 PGA winner said this isn’t the first time he’s played a tournament going onto the course sight unseen, it’s certainly not an ideal way to prepare for a major championship.
“I won’t be able to see how the greens are bouncing coming in to approach play, and I won’t really see how the greens are rolling typically out there,” he said. “I know we have practice facilities here, but it won’t give you the best preparation going forward unless you’ve seen the golf course.”
But while the no-practice-round strategy might put him at a competitive disadvantage, Day is ultimately putting his health first.
“I’ve just got to be cautious,” Day said. “I’ve got to not get too far ahead of myself and make sure that I listen to myself and listen to my body.”