LA JOLLA, Calif. — Jason Day has not disappeared, though it might have seemed as though he had, a forgotten victim of the Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm takeover.
Last year at this time, Day was No. 1 in the World Ranking. Today, he is No. 13. He hasn’t won since the 2016 Players Championship, a 20-month span.
In 2017, Day, now 30, had only five top-10s in 20 starts, half the number of top-10s he had the year before. He missed four cuts, the highest number he had since 2010.
It wasn’t complacency, though. He had issues, two of them more important than golf. Early in 2017, he learned that his mother had lung cancer. She underwent surgery in April. Late in the year, Day’s wife, Ellie, had a miscarriage.
In between, Day continued to deal with back issues, an ongoing concern even now, though other than a grimace or two on Friday weren’t evident as he reminded golf that he still intends to be a force in golf.
Day, playing the Farmers Insurance Open following a seven-week hiatus, posted the best round through 36 holes, an eight-under-par 64 on the North Course at Torrey Pines to vault into contention.
“Obviously, the first round was a little bit of rust,” he said, “but things are kind of moving in the right direction. The South Course is tough. Touch is kind of right there, but one thing we do have to consider with regards to why it’s so tough is the poa annua greens, so don’t get too out of sorts when you miss a putt. Just stay in your lane and kind of focus and keep moving forward.
“I did a lot of practicing last week, but my main goal was to try to drive it better and definitely improve the short game—the short game was poor, very poor last yea —and also improving the putting. That’s what I did great when I played well. And on top of that I think if I can hit more greens, give myself more opportunities, hopefully that can catapult me back into the World Rankings.”
It was Australia Day on Friday, incidentally, and Australian Day was asked how he intended to celebrate it following his round.
“I’m going to lay on the ground with my legs up with an ice pack on my back,” he said. "That’s pretty much it, unfortunately.
“The back’s OK. It’s just sore. I just have to deal with it. I’m doing everything I possibly can to keep it kind of settled down. I’m just trying to stay active through the round. The weekend’s going to come around and it’s going to bring some nice weather, so that should be good. Hopefully I don’t have to worry about it as much because my back always performs better when it’s hot.”