Jason Day regains discipline; now it's time to start winning

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Jason Day regains discipline; now it's time to start winning

PGA Tour

Jason Day regains discipline; now it's time to start winning

SOUTHPORT, England – In golf, motivation comes and goes. But in order for players to have success on the game’s highest of levels, the discipline must remain.

For Jason Day, who echoed that belief Wednesday at Royal Birkdale, it was discipline that fueled his rise to World No. 1 last year and allowed him to capture his first major, at the 2015 PGA Championship. But unfortunately for Day, the lack of that discipline at the start of 2017 has him entering this week’s British Open now ranked just fifth in the world and with just two top 10s and three missed cuts in 12 starts this year.

But don’t mistake the hard-working Day for being a slacker. A lot of it was out of his control. A late-season back injury, followed by end-of-the-year burnout. The pressure of topping the world rankings. And the biggest distraction, his mother Dening’s battle with cancer.

“When you feel like you’re going to lose someone that are very close to you, there’s nothing you want to do more than just be with them and you don’t even want to think about playing golf or even think about working,” Day said. “So there’s a stretch there where I’d just go home and just sit around with her.”

Not that Day is complaining. He’s happy to have his mother still. Dening Day, who was once given 12 months to live, received a much better prognosis upon coming to the U.S. from Australia earlier this year. She ended up having surgery in March to remove a mass from her lung, and then didn’t even need chemotherapy.

But Day did concede this: “Obviously the time that I would be spending working and practicing, it caught up to me.”

Almost every part of Day’s game has slipped. He’s 46th in strokes gained-tee to green after finishing last season ranked 14th. And a season after leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained-putting, Day finds himself ranked 61st right now.

“If you take my years 2015 and 2016, I hit it long and straight-ish. I hit my iron shots a lot closer and I holed everything on the greens,” Day said. “And this year it’s not as long, it’s not as straight. My iron shots aren’t as close, and I’m not holing as many putts.

“So it’s a perfect formula for not having a good year.”

But the year isn’t over. There is no towel being thrown. Day is committed. He’s regained that discipline and despite coming into the week having missed two straight cuts, Day remains hopeful.

“I’ve been working very hard,” Day said. “I’ve been trying to tick the boxes, and hopefully I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Part of Day’s turnaround, specifically on the greens, can be credited to Tiger Woods, who texted Day after Day’s missed cut at the U.S. Open saying he saw something in Day’s putting stroke. Day didn’t immediately respond, but he has now.

“It’s great to have a set of eyes like Tiger’s, especially who’s one of the best clutch putters of all time, to be able to kind of see on TV what you’re doing wrong,” Day said. “… Hopefully I putt a little better this week.”

Though he’s not expecting instant results, if only because the British Open isn’t exactly made for the high-hitting Aussie. Day hasn’t been horrible in golf’s oldest major, having never missed a cut in six tries, but he’s contended only once, in 2015 at St. Andrews, where he tied for fourth.

“This has always been one of those weeks that has always been a little bit tough for me with my major performances,” Day said.

Day didn’t see Royal Birkdale until Tuesday after arriving in England on Monday. He was initially supposed to leave Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, fly through JFK airport in New York and arrived Sunday. But delays caused by President Trump attending the U.S. Women’s Open in nearby Bedminster, N.J., made Day change his departure to Sunday.

All good, though, as Day got to spend more time with his family, including son, Dash, who turned 5 years old on July 10.

“The last couple of years I actually missed his birthday just to get here to prep,” Day said. “And I’m like, enough is enough; I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m like, I can’t miss his birthday.”

Now, it’s time for Daddy to win a Claret Jug for his boy’s birthday. Day might not be playing fully up to his lofty standards, but he always holds the essential belief that he can win every time he tees it up.

“I honestly believe good and big things are coming for me,” Day said. “I’ve got to just trust it and understand, keep working hard.”

And stayed disciplined each and every day.

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