Jason Day Recovers from Personal Problems to Defend Players Championship Title

Jason Day's 11-month reign atop the world rankings was ended when American Dustin Johnson won the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 19, 2017

What a difference a “Day” makes when comparing the current #3 golfer in the world, who was #1 exactly one year ago this week after winning the 2016 Players Championship, to now when he is struggling to find a way to win another tournament.

Jason Day, the Australian golfer and undisputed best golfer on the planet at this time last year, easily won the Players Championship with his 10th victory on the PGA Tour. He was in the midst of dominating his sport, winning three times in his last six starts and capturing his seventh victory in 10 months.

“I honestly felt there was no one better than me in the game, and that it didn’t matter who it was, I was going to beat them,” said the 29-year-old after his win at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Florida, the majestic home of the Players Championship.

Unfortunately for the Aussie, perhaps a tad of hubris crept in to fell the gifted Day, because he hasn’t won since then.

Steve DeMeglio writes at USA Today that personal circumstances may have contributed to Day’s failure to regain his lost prowess on the golf course.

Jason’s wife gave birth to a second child during his winning run and his mom suffered from a cancerous tumor in her lung at the beginning of the year, from which she recovered nicely, reports DeMeglio. Moreover, severe back problems doused his chances of finishing on top the leaderboard. 

On top of this, however, Jason confessed that when he got to #1 in the world rankings he lost some of his mojo. He admits that he went on cruise control, and given the money that professionals make on tour, that can be a very nice life.

“There are guys out here that are comfortable to stay in that place, whatever the base camp they’re at,” Day stated a couple days before defending his title at The Players Championship starting Thursday. “It’s a good living out here, I must admit. We play for a lot of money. I could kind of just cruise it in and make a good living and enjoy having a little bit of fame and fortune that goes along with it.

“But at the end of my career, I will be severely angry at myself if I did not give it a 100%. I think it’s kind of in my blood.”

Day says that he never realized all the distractions that come along with being at the pinnacle of the world rankings, which he held for 51 weeks:

I didn’t realize that once you got to No. 1 in the world the amount of demand from the media, fans, sponsors, and pretty much everything else that entails being at a golf tournament and off course as well, … I’ve got to make it as less stressful as possible. Make sure that when hopefully one day I get back that I take that stress and that load of stress off my shoulders so I can just go out there and focus on golf. Because I’m a person that I can’t do four million things at once, and that’s what it feels like when you’re at the top. It just feels like you’re getting pulled in each different direction, and you’ve got no time to breathe.

Given Day’s explanation, it makes one appreciate just how remarkable it was for Tiger Woods to stay on top so long. Woods was able to capture the #1 spot for 683 weeks (13 years) a feat that will likely stand forever. Only Greg Norman comes anywhere close to Tiger’s achievement with enjoying the number one spot for 331 weeks. Nick Faldo is next on the list of all-time #1 leaders, holding the spot for 97 weeks. The official World Golf Ranking was conceived in 1986. 

The world’s current #1 Dustin Johnson is an odds-on favorite to win the Players Championship on Thursday.

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