Proud dad Jason Day: “I’m not done yet, I’ve jut got to keep pushing”

The Australian carded a first round 67 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic that left him in the top 10 heading into Friday’s action.

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Jason Day to win at 18/1

It's been a tough few years for Jason Day.

In the middle years of the last decade he was one of the stars of the sport: a World No. 1 and winner of the 2015 PGA Championship, the 2016 PLAYERS Championship, and two World Golf Championship Match Play titles.

But it is now three years since he celebrated the last of his 12 PGA Tour successes.

"Oh, yeah, it feels like a lifetime," he admitted after posting a 67 in the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, before adding: "I'm not done yet. I know that I've just got to keep pushing."

In truth, his woes are longer term than just the last few years.

He hit the top of the world rankings in late 2015, a year that saw him triumph five times, and he quickly added another three titles in 2016.

But at the 2017 Open he revealed that the strain of getting to the top had negatively impacted on what happened next.

"I got a little bit burned out the end of 2016 and my back was really letting me down," he explained at Royal Birkdale. "Take the burnout, the injuries, being fed up with them, the pressure of being No. 1 was difficult, as well. It got to me little bit."

There was a revival in early 2018, with two more high class wins (his victories tend to come against good fields on good courses), but the consistency that had propelled him to World No. 1 has never returned.

However, he finished T10th last week at TPC River Highlands, a first top 10 since February and a first top 30 finish in eight attempts.

His seven-birdie 5-under-par 67 leaves him tied seventh, four shots behind the early pace-setter Davis Thompson at Detroit GC, on track to maintain progress and he was confident about which part of his game is responsible for the mini-renaissance.

"My putting has definitely eased a lot of the pressure," he said.

"At the start of the year I had no idea what I was doing putting-wise and wasn't holing a lot of putts. Momentum putts from five to 10-feet, the ones that keep the round moving, I just wasn't holing.

"I'm starting to see the ball go in before I hit the putt and when I was putting my best, that's what I saw.

"At the start of the year I had no idea. I would sit there and go, 'Okay, I have to hit the putt on the perfect line at the perfect speed just to get it in the hole.'

"Whereas, when I'm putting my best, I feel like I can push it, pull it, hit it as hard as I want and it's going in.

"Like I've said before putting was the sun in my universe and I've just got to keep working on it. It takes a lot of pressure off my game."

The stats back him up: in 2015 he ranked fifth for Strokes Gained Putting, in 2016 14th, in 2018 second.

This year he ranks 103rd.

But last week he gained strokes on the green for the first time since March and in round one he kept that going, ranking 19th (+1.842).

Small building blocks, but he'll keep pushing, not least because he now finds himself motivated by 9-year-old son Dash.

"He asked if I was a celebrity the other day and I said no," Day said.

"Because I want him to look at me like I'm his dad instead of a celebrity. That I'm a golfer, that I'm a good golfer, that I'm there to help him whenever he needs me.

"Him playing golf has inspired me to work a little bit harder to stay out here a lot longer. Hopefully one day we can play in the Father-Son and maybe he can caddie for me. That would be awesome."

Here's the best of the rest Day had to say after his 67.

Day on the state of his back

"It's good. It's funny, I was explaining it earlier. I tweaked my back the week of Memorial, Monday at Memorial. Anytime going from right to left, it would just hurt. So I just one-armed it down the fairway. Two weeks off, give yourself enough rest to recover. Then you go from not really prepping to going into Travelers full bore and hitting it how you can. There's nothing wrong, it was just sore.

Day on his first round

"The highlights. I made two bombs on the front side. On two I think it was like 30-feet and then on the par-3 fifth there was a nice bomb back down the hill. I didn't play the par 5s too well today, 1-under-par. But good momentum birdies on eight and nine to get my round moving in the right direction there. From there I just knew that there was a lot more opportunities on the back side. I don't know why that is, but I just feel like the back side plays a little bit easier."

Day's record when in the top 10 after 18 holes

It's happened 67 times and he's won five times, finishing in the top five 39% of the time and the top 10 54%.

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