Day praises Johnson but vows to return to No. 1
Santa Monica, CA: It’s hardly customary for the assembled media to want to speak to a player who finished outside the top-60 no matter what the tournament.
Except on this occasion, and bizarrely just outside the Ladies locker-room in the exclusive Riviera clubhouse, it was current World No. 1 Jason Day.
Day returned to No.1 with his WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship win in March 2016 (Credit: www.golffile.ie)
Strangely, on the eve of the Genesis Open the Australian living in Ohio had spoken candidly for the first time of the real pressures of dealing with the being the world’s top-ranked player.
In many ways, Day hinted it was very much as though the father of two was walking around with a target on his back.
Day was not aware of the maths until someone mentioned that should red-hot Hideki Matsuyama, as World No. 5, or World No. 3 Dustin Johnson win the L. A. event then Day needed to finish no worse than a share of third if he was to retain the No. 1 ranking.
Matsuyama soon ruled himself out with scores of 68 and a shock second round 80 to miss the cut.
But while Day made the cut with a pair of 70s he was hardly sighted over the closing two rounds in shooting rounds of 75 and 71 for an official T64th placing.
Johnson still had some seven holes to play when Day emerged from the scorer’s room, also within the downstairs Ladies locker-room area of the club, to be confronted by around 50 waiting media.
He was approached by a PGA Tour media official and then took his place, as he so often has been pleased to do in the 51 weeks he reigned at No. 1 in the world of golf, behind a microphone.
Day remarked: “This is about losing World No. 1, is that correct?”
And no sooner after that remark Day found himself on the back foot for the first time since becoming World No. 1 in late 2015 in capturing the PGA Tour’s Barclays Championship in New Jersey, and in his very next event in winning the PGA Championship.
He held the ranking for four weeks but lost the title over the 2015/16 Christmas and New Year period before regaining the crown in an emphatic manner with victory last March at the WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship in Austin, Texas.
Just last week Day went past Master Champion Ian Woosnam as the seventh longest World No. 1.
However, Day has fallen short by just five weeks in joining just four other players to have been World No. 1 for an unbroken 52 weeks, and they are Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Rory McIlroy.
And Day, though standing behind the microphone officially still the No. 1, was full of praise for Johnson.
“He deserves it because he’s been playing great golf. He goes ahead and wins this pretty convincingly, he deserves to get that ranking,” said Day.
“But the biggest thing for me is not focus on the rankings. I’ve just got to keep trying to improve each and every week. I think my chipping and putting are finally coming along. The hitting will come, and if I can get that, I’ll obviously get back to winning form.
“You’ve just got to focus on winning, doing the right things, getting back to winning. If you do that, then it takes care of everything. You don’t have to worry about it, even looking at the rankings anymore.
“I had a good little run there and obviously all positive stuff. So, I’m glad I had that little run. I know exactly what I need to do going into the future and hopefully I can take better steps trying to hold that position once I get back.”
And as Day had mentioned on the eve of the Genesis Open being the game’s top-ranked player is not all fame and fortune.
“It was tough. I mean there’s a lot of good and a lot of, you know, I would say kind of uncomfortable situations that you’re just not used to. You get obviously a lot more pressure, a lot more time commitments, a lot more stuff that obviously come to you as World No. 1, but that’s just part and parcel of being the person.
“If I could stay there for 10 years, I would. I would be happy to sacrifice and do that. But right now I just, with the three months off coming back into this year, it wasn’t prepared well enough and I didn’t play that great coming in.”
“And Dustin’s played tremendous golf obviously coming from last year into this year as well. I know how it feels, I did it two years at the BMW, ended up winning by six and ended up getting to No. 1 that way and he’s kind of done the same to me, so all good things. I can’t be disappointed with myself, I’ve just got to keep improving.”
With new World No. 1 Dustin Johnson taking this coming week off and also with Rory McIlroy, who has been bumped back to World No. 3, returning to competition at next fortnight’s WGC – Mexico Championship it means that both Day, McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama get a shot at No. 1 ranking on March 5th in Mexico City.