n Day has put the world No. 1 ranking back on his radar as he prepares for another tilt at the season's second major, the United States Open at Pinehurst in North Carolina this week.
Day was immensely frustrated earlier this year when he reached a career-high No. 4 mark after he won the World Golf Championship Accenture Matchplay event, only to break down with a thumb injury. He has played only twice since, and his ranking has slipped to No. 7, but fit and well again, he is excited.
''I had the opportunity to get to No. 1 in the world at Augusta and … with Tiger being out and 'Scotty' (Adam Scott) and Henrik (Stenson) just in front of me at the time, I definitely had a chance to get to that No. 1 spot,'' he told a media conference at Pinehurst today. "That's been my dream ever since I was a little kid. So to say I was frustrated was a bit of an understatement. It was an opportunity that I, unfortunately missed, but I'm seven in the world now and I have an opportunity this week to win the US Open and shoot up the golf world rankings, and hopefully one day achieve that goal.''
The Queenslander, runner-up in this tournament in 2011 (behind Rory McIlroy) and 2013 (behind Justin Rose), arrived in North Carolina last Friday to check out the redesigned course, which he had never played previously. Fortunately, the left thumb strain that bothered him for much of this year has healed, although he is still on anti-inflammatories to make sure that it does not flare up again.
"I'm 100 percent healthy,'' he said. "I just want to get that out there. There's no issues with the thumb. There's no issues with any other part of my body that have been an issue in the past. (I am) definitely looking forward to playing this week. I feel good about my game. I think the biggest thing is to just come up with a game plan that I feel that will kind of complement my distance with being conservative.
"Like I said, I feel like you can't be conservative enough in US Opens. Obviously it's a premium to kind of stay out of the natural areas and not go into the bushes there. But once again, excited to be here, I've got another chance to hopefully win my first Major this week and I'm just excited to get the week going.''
Day has a terrific overall record in majors, with six top-10 finishes and four top-fives, all in the past five years. He continues to drive himself to break through and join his fellow-Queenslander Adam Scott in the major-winners' club. "I've been close in a few Majors now, so close that you can almost taste it,'' he said. "It's disappointing and encouraging at the same time. It really is all how you look at things. I can stew on it and say, I kind have blown a few, or I had a real opportunity to win and I just didn't quite get there. But I look at it as experience.
"I feel like I'll get there one day. I just have to keep giving myself the opportunities. If I can put myself there more and more and more, it's bound to happen, I just feel like it's bound to happen. I definitely want to win a US Open. I think this is a true test of golf; not only mentally, not only physically, but just to show what you've got, because US Opens typically are the hardest golf course that we play on tour every year.
"If you can mentally stay patient and just keep yourself in the fight until it's all over, you have a shot at winning. That's what I'm going to try and do. I'm not going to give up this week, I'm going to keep fighting until it's over and hopefully that's good enough.''
Day is one of 11 Australians in the field this week, a remarkable number in itself, although it is he and Adam Scott who will take most of the attention. He will start at 9.18 Thursday evening (AEST) with Sergio Garcia and Brandt Snedeker. Scott, the world No. 1 player, is one of the heavy favorites to win, although his US Open record is moderate. He has never finished higher than 15th in 12 starts. Scott tees off at 1.25pm Thursday (3.25am AEST) with Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, is in the field using his 10-year exemption for this event. Top amateur Oliver Goss, a member of Golf Australia's national elite squad, is playing on an invitation earned for making the final of the US Amateur championship last year.