Golf

Jason Day excited to play in Zurich Classic

By Brian Allee-Walsh

Columnist

Jason Day of Australia during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jason Day of Australia during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Jason Day arrived at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana, sitting on top of the Official World Golf Rankings, the first reigning No. 1 to play in the Big Easy since David Duval in 1999.

The 29-year-old Australian is well rested and feeling good about his game, determined to get back in the winner's circle after shooting himself out of a share of the 36-hole lead at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago.

Day ballooned to a 79 in the third round, then righted himself with a closing 68 for a T23 and a $50,000 paycheck.

But the warning signs of job burnout were evident.

Citing mental and physical fatigue after five straight weeks of competitive golf, he headed home to his young family for some much-needed R&R, work in the gym and quality practice time on the range.

After all, as the No. 1 player in the world, Day has an image to uphold.

"There were some certain things -- bad habits -- that had kind of crept into my game,'' he told reporters. "That when you're playing a lot, you don't have time to work them out.

"There's nothing worse in this world right now than me playing bad golf. I want to be in contention all the time, and I want to win and play golf tournaments.''

Day climbed to No. 1 in the OWGR on the strength of back-to-back wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in March. Coupled with five wins in 2015, including the PGA Championship, he has established himself as a potential champion every time he tees it up.

This week is no different. Along with defending champion Justin Rose (No. 10, OGWR), Rickie Fowler (No. 5, OGWR), 2013 Zurich Classic champion Billy Horschel and Daniel Berger, Day has to be considered a favorite to conquer 7,341-yard, par-72 Pete Dye layout.

Day finished T4 last year as the No. 6-ranked player in the world. Now the mindset is different.

"If you want to be the best in the world, you have to work harder than everyone else, and you have to be in front of your competition,'' he said. "Getting to No. 1 is the hardest part. Climbing that mountain is very difficult.''

Staying there is even more daunting.

For Day, his No. 1 status marks his third atop the OWGR. The Zurich Classic of New Orleans marks his fifth consecutive week at No. 1, the ninth week overall in his young career. By comparison, Tiger Woods and Australian Greg Norman have spent 683 and 331 weeks at No. 1, respectively, and Phil Mickelson has never been No. 1.

"It's good to be No. 1,'' Day said. "I know I'm at nine weeks now. I just want to get to No. 10, and after that I want to get to No. 11, and after that I want to get to No. 12.

"What I admire most about Tiger and Phil and the guys who have dominated the game for so long is their ability to manage their lives, personal and professional, and still have the will and want to win every golf tournament they compete in.''

Brian Allee-Walsh, is a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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