Date: March 23, 2016
Author: Bernie McGuire, Austin, Texas

Day touching distance from summit again

Jason Day asked a simple question today on the eve of the WGC Dell Match Play Championship.

"What do I need to do to become World No.1?"

Day moved back to the No.2 ranking in winning last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, just 0.3074 of a point behind top-ranked Jordan Spieth.

Of course, Spieth has home-soil advantage this week and next when he competes in the Houston Open, both in his home state of Texas.

Spieth and Day are the respective No.1 and No.2 seeds this week at the picturesque Austin Country Club on the banks of the Colorado River and can only meet in the final of the $US9.5m event.

The American has been tops since his victory last September in the US PGA Tour Championship, a win that also earned him the prized FedEx Cup.

Getting back that mantle Day held for four weeks, initially after his BMW Championship win for a week and later for three weeks while on a break, is one of the Queenslander’s burning goals this season – and arguably more important before the Masters in a fortnight.

Victory here on a course very much a shrine to the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite and Harvey Penick will ensure Day’s passage back to the top.

In a week of much mathematics, he will most likely be world No.1 again should he progress further than Spieth in the knockout stages, but possibly even with a better record in the round-robin phase.

Asked what it would mean to achieve that goal in his final event before the Masters, Day’s response was simple.

“What do I need to do?” he said.

The reply was:  “Beat Spieth, basically.”

Day’s matter-of-fact response made the task sound as simple as the question: "All right. That's fair enough.

“At the end of the day, if you've got to win, you've got to win. And if he's playing well, which he most likely will, and I'm sure he’s played here before, especially in college and knowing this place, he's got obviously a better advantage over me.

"But the good thing about it is that I'm not playing against him until the last match if I get through all my matches.

“Jordan's still got a lot of tough opponents coming up, like we all do. That would be great to be able to go to Augusta with that No.1 tag, and it would be great to get through this week and win it and really go into Augusta with a lot of confidence knowing that my game is in the right shape and trending towards hopefully putting on that green jacket.”

After taking three months off at the end of last year, a period that coincided with the birth of Lucy, his second child, Day clearly has a hunger to continually challenge Spieth.

“The biggest thing for Jordan and myself is not look back on what we did last year,” Day.

“It's great to look back on it and see what we've done and the success we've had, but now we've got to focus on what we're doing today. Everyone (has been) asking … `Why haven't you played as well as you need to be or are expecting to be (early in the year?’. And it's just a process. It happens.

“I took three months off and that's usually a momentum killer with the second half of last year to this year. It happens. My expectation is, every week, as long as I give it 100 per cent every day, then I can't think of anything else that I need to do.

“I'm going to try to do the best I can to win each and every week.

“But sometimes, especially at the start of the year, it's just hard. Your expectation level is so high and, with having three months off, it's tough to come out and win tournaments when you take that time off.

“In Jordan's case, he didn't take so much time off. I said it last week … I was worried about him, and I really am. I just don't want him to be burned out, because he is so much a big part of the game.

“He's a young kid that is a dominant player in the game. He's important to golf. Him and Rory are kind of the face of our next generation and we need players like that, especially to grow the game and especially for future generations.

“Sometimes if you've got too many obligations or you're playing too many things, you can kind of get burned out and really just need some time off. Who knows? He might like playing that much. I don't know, I haven't really talked to him about it. And if that's his schedule and he's happy with it, that's fine. Ultimately he does what he needs to do to win golf tournaments.

“Right now I'm just trying to focus on what I need to do to try to win the next one.”