“I can’t keep playing the way I am” - Jason Day opens up on struggles

Jason Day

As recently as February 2017, Jason Day was the best player on the planet.

To date, only seven players have spent longer at No.1 on the Official World Golf Rankings than the Aussie.

For good measure, he’s a major champion, 12 times a winner on the PGA Tour and the 12th highest earner in the history of the world’s most lucrative circuit.

And before you started reading this, you’d just about forgotten he existed, right?

Winless since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship, Day, still only 33-years-old, has endured a wretched few years. Stretching back to the start of 2020, he has missed 14 cuts in 36 starts on the PGA Tour, withdrawing a further twice.

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Half of those weekends off have come in his most recent 15 starts. He finished 42nd on the FedEx Cup last season and as he prepares to make his first start of the new campaign at this week’s CJ Cup – on a sponsor’s invite, no less – he has tumbled to 79th on the OWGR.

Most startling of all is the fact that he is only currently exempt for one major – the US PGA Championship – next year.

Actually, scratch that. Most startling is the amount he expects to play over in the immediate future.

"Currently, I'm probably going to play three events in six months,” he told reporters at The Summit Club this week.

“I'm playing this week and I'm scheduled to play the Shootout, and then the next tournament I'll play is Farmers [Insurance Open. So I guess that's three events in five, six months, something like that.”

That leaves him with rather a lot of time to fill. Fortunately, he has a plan.

“[I’ll be] focusing a lot on my mind, focusing a lot on my body,” Day added. “Both are very much important, like both body and mind. Trying to work on myself personally, which is something that we don't do enough of as professional athletes. And then on top of it, trying to work on my swing to help complement the mind and body.

“So I feel like things are progressing in what they need to do, but, you know, the level -- the play that I'm expecting this week, I'm here just to see how things have progressed swing-wise. What that will, you know, produce result-wise will be interesting to see how it goes this week.”

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Day has battled a slump and a succession of injuries over the last few years and admits that he’s at something of a crossroads in his career. How long he will continue is a question he can’t answer right now.

“I'm like to the point where I can't keep playing golf the way that I am because it hurts my body,” he said. “And when it hurts my body, then it hurts my mind, or the mental side of things. It's just, it's too much.

“So I'm trying to take the right steps in place because if I can do that right now and do the right things, hopefully that will extend another 10 to 15 years of my career. I'm trying to play the long game right now, so I'm not really looking for anything. If results come quicker than expected, great, but I'm outside the top-50, I'm not currently in the majors other than the PGA, I'm outside the WGCs.

“So right now I'm just, I'm to the point where I'm just kind of working on myself personally and then trying to, you know, gain results through just the work that I'm putting in.”

Pressed to explain what he means by working on his mind, Day added: “I guess obviously we all battle demons, you know what I mean, and especially as golfers. It's such an individual sport even though we do have, as individuals, we do have teams around us, but you're out there battling yourself.

“[I need to] try and discover that golf is not the thing that defines me, you know what I mean? If I play bad golf, as long as I give it everything that I can, then it is what it is, the results are the results. Not to always have golf on my mind is what I'm saying. I just don't need to have that stress and that anxiety of actually going and performing because everyone else thinks I should be performing the way that they should.

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“So there's a lot of expectations not only on the golf course on myself, but also have other people around you and whatnot.

“I feel like these last two years I've grown a lot as kind of an individual because I have stopped battling these things and you learn to go, okay, well, I'm either going to quit the game because I don't want to feel like this and it's not motivating and I'm struggling with it, or how do I handle it and tackle it head on and be able do it in a healthy way where for the next 10, 15 years, if I want to, I actually enjoy myself on the golf course while competing at a high level.

“I think the biggest thing is do I want to climb that mountain again. I've got to take it easy and I've got to be smart about it because if I'm not smart about it, then it could be short lived.”

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