On the eve of his Players Championship title defence, Jason Day has set himself the considerable task of reeling in runaway world No.
1 Dustin Johnson in 2017.
Physically-gifted, long-hitting Johnson has cleared out at the top of the world rankings since capitalising on Day’s mediocre season start, which has yielded a best finish of fifth place at Pebble Beach.
The 32-year-old American’s past four starts include three consecutive victories, including two World Golf Championships, before a runner-up finish at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship on return from the freak injury that put him out of the Masters.
After ending Day’s 47-week reign as No.1 in February, Johnson has increased his rankings lead over world No.2 Rory McIlroy to a whopping five points, with Day now at No.3.
Speaking at TPC Sawgrass in Florida on Tuesday, Day admitted catching reigning US Open champion Johnson would be a tall order in his current majestic form.
“Dustin is playing pretty well. It’s pretty hard to keep up when (he) hits it 350 yards, flicks it on with a wedge and holes all the putts,” said Day.
“But I’m trying to focus on getting back to that winning form, the practice workload I was doing (as No.1) and hopefully the results will come after that.”
Day believes a reboot of his mental approach will be key to returning to the top, having been heavily distracted previously due to his mother’s cancer diagnosis.
“For a moment, I lost the desire to be world No.1; I was mentally burnt out. Now, I’m in a rebuilding stage to try and get back to the top,” he said.
“I would do anything in the world to get back because there’s no better feeling than being the best.”
Day believes the good memories of last year’s win at the Players Championship could be the tonic he needs to kickstart his misfiring season, despite TPC Sawgrass undergoing several design changes.
“It’s obviously pretty special to come back as defending champion,” said Day.
“This feels like a major to me, so my expectation is heightened when when I come into an event like this.”
Day is joined at TPC Sawgrass by fellow Australians Adam Scott and recent Zurich Classic of winner Cameron Smith, as well as Rod Pampling, Greg Chalmers and Aaron Baddeley.
Starting Thursday (Friday AEST), the Players Championship has earned the reputation as the fifth major for its high-calibre field and $US1.8 million winner’s prize.