CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jason Day was surging down Magnolia Lane ahead of the 2023 Masters.
The Aussie had finished inside the top 20 in all seven of his starts in the new year, including a fifth place showing at the WM Phoenix Open and T-5 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Day was solo second late during the second round at Augusta National and was in position to finish inside the top 12 and punch his ticket for 2024 over the weekend.
Then vertigo hit on Sunday.
“We had to finish our third round Sunday morning and then I was sitting in the caddie hut and that’s when I got vertigo,” said Day, who first struggled with the issue at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. “It really kicked my butt at Augusta. That was like kind of the time where I had to take a step back.”
The 35-year-old made four double bogeys over a five-hole stretch to shoot an 8-over 80 and finish T-39. He then was forced to pull out of the RBC Heritage to run some tests, which led to a three-week break.
“I’ve been playing a lot better so there’s obviously more stress and when you have more stress, your immune system can get compromised and for me it was just unfortunate that happened in the last round,” Day explained on Wednesday ahead of the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. “It’s never really the mental side or the actual me going out there and trying to work harder that stops me from golf, it’s typically my body saying, ‘No, you can’t do that anymore.’”
Refreshed with a new diet and some much-needed rest, the 2018 Wells Fargo champion is back in action and making his seventh career start at the event, which has been elevated to one of the Tour’s 14 designated events for the season and offers a $20 million purse, with $3.6 million going to the winner.
“I think a lot of the decisions we’ve made, the Tour and the policy board has made over the last year, there obviously has been a reaction to what (LIV Golf) has brought to the table. To be honest, I think everyone’s better for it. I mean, we’re playing for more money on both sides,” said Day of the schedule changes. “What’s more sustainable, I’m not sure, but I’m looking at the picture right now and it feels pretty good. I’m just trying to get back to winning at the end of the day and leave the decision making to (Rory McIlroy) and those guys.”
It’s tough to believe that Day’s last win came five years ago at the Wells Faro Championship, especially since he won 10 times between the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open and the 2018 event here at Quail Hollow – including the 2015 PGA Championship and 2016 Players Championship – and rose to world No. 1.
“I need to get back into the winner’s circle, I know that. I feel that my game is starting to round into some really good form where I know that I can win more consistently, it’s just a matter of putting myself into contention a little bit more,” said Day. “Not too worried about it too much. To be honest, I’ve got past the point of like thinking about winning and more of the point of just trying to go through the correct process every single day and then at some point it’s going to yield more confidence and better play.”
“When that happens, it’s going to happen a lot, which would be nice.”
Day has been a horse for this beast of a course but was left off Trevor Immelman’s International squad for the 2022 Presidents Cup held last fall at Quail Hollow. A four-time member of the worldwide All-Stars, Day didn’t watch the event, and was happy he didn’t get the call from the captain.
“I was just trying to gain more confidence in myself and my game, just trying to build my game back up. Like I was kind of glad that I didn’t get the call from (Immelman) because my game was not in a position to be put on stage, a large stage like the Presidents Cup,” said Day. “There would have been a lot of holes exposed and I feel like I’m better off now for it.”