Day has his own act to follow at Kapalua
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Jordan Spieth isn’t the only player with a tough act to follow.
Jason Day is coming off a monster year of his own with five victories, including his first major at the PGA Championship and a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events that gave him a brief spell at No. 1 in the world.
His goal for 2016 is more of the same. A lot more.
“I’m very motivated to get back to No. 1,” Day said Wednesday. “I’m very motivated to win as many tournaments as I can this year, and to be a more dominant player. Whether it happens or not, we’ll see at the end of the year. But I’m going to give it a good shot. I’m going to work my tail off every single day to try and achieve that.”
The first step is the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which kicks off the new year in grand style.
This is the strongest field at Kapalua in 10 years, with Spieth and Day at Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, along with Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, British Open champion Zach Johnson and defending champion Patrick Reed among the 32-man field of PGA Tour winners from the previous year.
Day, much like Spieth, wants a continuation from the previous year.
Only it might not be as easy.
While everyone in the field has played tournaments over the last few months because of the wraparound season, Day brings rust to this island paradise.
He hasn’t competed since Oct. 11 at the Presidents Cup. He has played only four holes, that was a month ago in Florida during a corporate day. He chose to stay home in Ohio as his wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter they named Lucy.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t in the news.
Day was spotted in Detroit for a Thursday night NFL game against the Packers. He was on the sidelines holding a camera from some TV connections he had. That was a big thrill. More famously, he had a courtside seat to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers, where the most watched highlight was LeBron James going hard after a loose ball and crashing into Day’s wife, Ellie, sending her to the hospital.
Social media being what it is, Day caught some grief for not jumping in front of his wife.
“It happened so quick. I’m going to do that?” he said. “I’m not going to stop a 260-pound guy that’s 6-8 running full speed. Ellie took it like a champ, though. Once I saw her, she was on the ground, she was kind of freaking out a little bit about her neck, and once they started doing the test on her — she’s moving her legs, hands, feet, arms — I knew everything was going to be OK. She had post-concussion symptoms.”
Day said he left his house twice and both times he was on TV.
That’s the price of stardom that he earned last year with a performance that was better than all but one player.
Spieth is under a brighter glare in Hawaii because of his two majors and sweep of all the awards, though he is approaching the new year as if the old one never ended. In some respects, it didn’t. Spieth tied for seventh in Shanghai to regain the No. 1 ranking, he tied for second in the Australian Open and he finished fourth in the Bahamas.
Spieth has specific goals that he only shares with his team. The big picture hasn’t changed.
“Got to close tournaments out, so it goes to victories,” he said. “Certainly, you’ve got to be there in a couple of major championships come Sunday and have a chance to do what we did this past year, which we had a chance each of the four Sundays.
“I’ve been close a lot and closed out a little, and you’ve got to have the breaks go your way,” he said. “But closing it out is something that’s a different mental edge than I really knew the last couple years prior to the 2015 season.”
Day can replace Spieth at No. 1 in the world ranking by winning, or even finishing second depending on what Spieth does. The battle for No. 1 figures to take place for at least the first few months of the season. As for his desire to win more and become a dominant player? He was awfully close to that the final four months of last season, when he won four times and never finished worse than 12th in his last nine events.
“I know that I’ve got it in me because of how the second half went last year,” Day said. “And I’ve got the belief that I can do it. I’ve just taken three months off. I’m excited and a little nervous at the same time just to see how it goes. But it all comes down to — like anything else — to want. And if I want it enough, it will happen.”