CROMWELL, Conn. – For a guy who has won $2.3 million this year, it’s been a pretty quiet, under-the-radar sort of season for Jason Day.
The 31-year-old Australian tied for fourth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and earned a tie for fifth at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Masters. But as Rory McIlroy won the Players Championship, Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship and Gary Woodland captured last week’s U.S. Open, Day has gradually slid down the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Leaving Torrey Pines in January, Day was ranked No. 10, but he entered this week’s Travelers Championship in the No. 18 spot. He has not been ranked this low on the OWGR since August 2013.
After shooting 70 on Thursday, Day found his game and shot a 63 Friday morning as rain and wind made scoring conditions at TPC River Highlands ideal.
“It was disappointing to shoot even par yesterday because I know I played a lot better than the actual score showed,” Day said. “To capitalize on the opportunities that I had out there today, I definitely need it. It was nice to be able to settle into the round after birdieing four in a row on the back side, which was my front.”
After an opening par, those birdies came on holes 11 through 14, and Day made another on the 169-yard, par-3 16th hole. He finished his round with birdies at the second and sixth holes.
The season is far from over and Day, playing here for the fifth time, wants to win this event. At the same time, he is making long-term adjustments.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good finishes and I’m focusing on this year, but I’m really focused on 2020,” Day said.
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To that end, he recently hired Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ former caddie, to be his bag man. He loves the idea of having someone with lots of major-winning experience give him advice, and he likes Williams’ old school approach.
Day also knows that Williams won’t pull punches, and right now, that’s what he needs.
Asked at Pebble Beach whether he has got the most out of his talent, Day admitted that he has should have won more.
“Severely underachieved, I think,” he said, candidly. “Granted, I have to work on a few things, mentally and physically, with regards to my golf game. But I think I’ve underachieved up until now. I feel like I’ve got a game that when it’s on, I can win most tournaments. And the big thing for me is to go ahead and believe that and have trust in my abilities that I can do that. And now that I have Steve on the bag, I think hopefully that will flourish and I can make winning more of a habit.”
The bottom line, Day said on Friday, is, “When Steve asks you to hit a shot, you definitely try to hit the shot if you can.”
Day also changed golf balls at Pebble Beach, taking out his TaylorMade TP5x ball and switching to the company’s TP5. Both are five-piece, urethane-covered balls, but right now, Day thinks the lower-compression TP5 will work better for him.
“It’s softer. I was able to get those flighted shots that we’re talking about changing trajectory,” he said. “It’s been a plus since I’ve been going to that ball. I’m able to gain a little bit more control.”
Day has also been putting in extra time in the practice area, honing his speed control on the greens and trying to get more consistent with his irons. Williams has a lot to do with that too, bringing more discipline to Day’s practice sessions.
Friday showed that Day can still put it all together. He can go low, make putts as the conditions on the greens change and shape shots. In other words, Jason Day can play like the guy who was ranked No. 1 in the world as recently as February 2017.
If he keeps playing like he did on Friday, next year could come a lot faster than Day thinks.