‘Freaked out’: Day reveals Olympic regret

THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson - Previews
Jason Day will defend his title at the CJ CUP Byron Nelson. Picture: Tim Heitman/Getty Images

Returning to the scene of his comeback win in 2023, also the place where he broke through for his maiden PGA Tour victory, is a reminder to Jason Day of all the mountains he’s had to climb and that his fight to get back to the summit did pay off.

Day is defending his title at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson in Texas this week, with Olympics and Presidents Cup also on his immediate radar, a stark turnaround to where he was two years ago.

His victory last May, his 13th on the PGA Tour, came after a five-year drought during which the former world No.1 slipped out of the top 150, battled swing and illness issues and dealt with his mother’s death.

The father of five is now Australia’s highest-ranked player, at No.22, and revealed words from his mum, who moved from Brisbane to live with his family in the US, were crucial in his career resurgence.

“It’s kind of weird. Golf is a funny game, not only physically but mentally as well,” he said on the eve of the event, which he also won in 2010.

“Especially where I’ve been. I’ve been to the top of the mountain before and then to be where I was during that five-year span of like do I really want to push enough, kind of push through this and get through the pain of it all.

THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson - Previews
Jason Day has climbed a mountain. Picture: Tim Heitman/Getty Images/AFP

“But it was great to finally see all the work that I’ve been working on pay off. I remember talking to someone about this and I said like I keep projecting myself forward saying that I’m going to be talking about finally after so and so many years I finally got that win.

“It’s amazing how mentally tough this game can be. And I would always say to myself that if I can talk myself into a bad shot I can talk myself into a good shot. It’s human nature to feel down and guilty for yourself. I just kept on saying to myself, it’s only a short period of time.

“Even though five years is a long time in a career, it’s going to happen. Just keep working through it. Ultimately, it happened here last year, which was fantastic.”

Day missed three straight cuts after last year’s win, but then finished tied for second at the British Open and has had two top 10s among some mixed results in 2024, including a tie for 30th at the Masters.

It’s all the more evidence to Day, who will return to the Presidents Cup in September after a trip the Paris Olympics, conceded he was “a little bit freaked out” by the zika virus scare that stopped him going to Rio in 2016, that his career is a “marathon”.

“I think at the time … right before last year when I was playing some nice golf I was kind of playing golf for the wrong reasons I thought,” he said.

“I feel like looking kind of in the future and understanding that golf is like more of a marathon and it’s a long career if you want it to be; kind of playing from more of a position of like love and passion of the game is I think far healthier to play from than having a chip on your shoulder.

The Masters - Round Two
Day says he’s still learning. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

“It’s easy to find motivation when you have a chip on your shoulder because like people are talking against you and all that stuff. Certain players play well with that, but I feel like that’s a limited period of time where that can happen.

“For me personally I’m just trying to find that balance in amongst professional life and personal life, business and everything this comes along with being a professional golfer.

“It’s difficult, but I feel like these days – I mean, this is not my first – I’ve been out here 17 years now, so I feel like I’m still learning, and I’ll never stop learning.

“It’ll always evolve and I’ll try and get better at it.”