SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – It’s been a frustrating year for Jason Day, the 22-year-old, always-positive Aussie.
Yes, he did earn his first PGA Tour victory, but he’s also been dealing with a sinus infection since the Sony Open in January.
Day is still under the weather, but shot 69 in Thursday’s first round of the PGA Championship. Day, a renowned scrambler, was solid off the tee in his opening round, hitting 11 of 14 fairways.
Whistling Straits’ fairways are playing soft because of heavy rain Wednesday. That makes them more forgiving, but also makes the course play longer.
It’s been an even longer year for Day because of his illness, the latest in a series of health problems that have hampered the young Aussie’s progress.
“I enjoy being out here and playing,” Day said. “Most of the time you’ll see me with a smile on my face, but it’s just frustrating to play a tournament not 100 percent healthy. It just feels like you’re not giving yourself the best chance at winning.”
He felt dizzy and nauseous at times during his round Thursday. Day didn’t practice after his round, choosing to return to his RV to rest.
He said he’ll likely have surgery after the FedEx Cup to remove buildup in his sinuses.
It’s the latest health struggle for the young Aussie. He missed the end of the 2007 Nationwide Tour season after he injured his right wrist while hitting balls in October. He blew out a disk in his back last year.
“It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said with a laugh. “My biggest problem has always been my health.”
There were high expectations placed on Day after he graduated from the Nationwide Tour in ’07 at the age of 19. He’s just 22, but after two middling years on Tour, his name has only recently returned to the conversation about good, young players.
There’s plenty of them on the leaderboard at Whistling Straits. Francesco Molinari, 27, shot 68. Twentysomethings Day and Ryan Moore shot 69. John Merrick, Martin Laird and Michael Sim, all of whom have yet to reach their 30th birthday, shot 70s.
Day has gained about 20 yards this year, which allowed him to hit 4-wood on most of his tee shots Thursday. He hit driver just four times. Day improved the lower-body movement on his downswing this year. The change wasn’t intended to make him hit the ball longer, but it did.
Thursday was a long day for Day, who teed off in the first group off the 10th tee. He awoke at 4 a.m. for his 7 a.m. tee time. But play was suspended for more than 3 hours because of fog. He finished his first round around 3:30 p.m.
Day won on the Nationwide Tour at age 19, the youngest ever to do so. He earned his first Tour victory at this year’s Byron Nelson Championship, in part because new antibiotics helped him feel well throughout that week. That victory earned him a spot in this tournament and has him playing the “big-boy schedule” of majors and World Golf Championship events. This is his first PGA and second major overall.
“You don’t want to feel like (a major) is bigger than anything else,” Day said. “You have to play it as a normal tournament and have to try and feel as comfortable as possible.”
Day didn’t feel comfortable Thursday. It didn’t seem to matter, though.