Jason Day wins again after being ‘burned out’
He reached the top of the game, but Jason Day’s dream struggled to match the reality.
Reaching world No. 1, it seemed, was easier than staying there, and the Australian slid down the rankings from a seemingly impregnable position.
But a new-found vigor took the Australian to the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo title Sunday for his second win of 2018.
A second summit bid is under way.
Day climbed back to world No. 7 with his hard-fought two-shot win at Quail Hollow, and admitted afterward his decline had given him a “good kick in the butt.”
“I got burned out being No. 1,” the 30-year-old told reporters after his 12th PGA Tour win.
“It’s easy to get burned out in a position that you’re in the spotlight. It can be demanding at times. You’ve got to give time to people and sometimes you don’t get a lot of time to yourself.”
Day climbed to the pinnacle of the game in September 2015 after five wins that year, including his first major at the US PGA.
He flipflopped with Jordan Spieth at the top of the rankings until the following March when he took a firm grip on the world No. 1 position with three titles, culminating in a wire-to-wire victory in the Players Championship at Sawgrass — venue for this week’s PGA Tour event.
Day’s Sawgrass stroll — by four shots — was his seventh victory in 17 starts, a stretch reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his heyday.
“When you’re walking around — and there’s so many golfers in this world and you’re better than all of them — that’s an awesome feeling,” he told reporters.
But after that the pressure of staying at the top, coupled with mother Dening’s cancer diagnosis in early 2017, his wife Ellie’s miscarriage and back issues, precipitated Day’s decline.
“Last year was a good kick in the butt, not playing great and then seeing a lot of the other guys succeed,” said Day.
The Players victory was his last until his recent resurgence earned him the Farmers Insurance title at Torrey Pines in January.
“There was no jealousy there or envy,” he added. “I know what it takes and feels like to win and be in that position, and it was more disappointing emotion that came over me last year saying that I feel I’ve got all this talent.
“For me to not work as hard as I should be and to be selfish in that mindset — ‘well, I’m burned out, it’s OK to have an off year.’ That really bugged me.”
Day led going into the final round at Quail Hollow and received a text from close friend Woods Saturday night urging him to seal the victory.
However, the Columbus, Ohio-based star let slip a three-shot lead on the back nine before rallying with back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 — the latter nearly a hole in one — to beat Americans Aaron Wise and Nick Watney.
Day heads to Sawgrass in Florida this week with two wins under his belt, just like he did in 2016.
Woods made the cut but finished tied 55th in his first outing since a 32nd place at the Masters, while Rory McIlroy, who celebrated his 29th birthday Friday, ended tied 16th.