Jason Day says the US Open suits his game perfectly, and that his results show it.
The Australian came to Shinnecock Hills for the first time this week with another major on his mind. It is the character of the US Open – which often turns into a relentless quest for pars rather than a birdie-fest – that appeals to the grinder in Day.
“I mean, when you come into an event like this, I was just saying earlier that usually, you hear guys moaning and groaning about the setup or, you know, the course we're playing on, how tight things are or the healthy fescue or something, you know what I mean? There's usually something guys complain about. This week, there's none of that,’’ he said.
“You can kind of write people off straight away if they're complaining. When it comes to the US Open, it tests every part of your game and the mental side as well. So, whatever you get, you get. I mean, you just got to kind of suck it up and just keep going.
“I like the stressful part of trying to win a tournament, and I like the stressful part about just being in amongst, playing a tough tournament in front of a lot of people and trying to win a major. So I think if you can just keep grinding, that's my biggest thing. I'm not a mud-runner, but like to a certain degree, I enjoy tough conditions because I feel like I thrive better under those conditions than, per se, an easier course where everyone can come in and play.’’
Day’s US Open record is excellent. He was second to a rampant Rory McIlroy on debut in 2011, and second again in 2013, fourth in 2014 before two more top-10 finishes in 2015 and 2016. He missed the cut at Erin Hills last year but overall he has five top-10s in seven starts.
He is also hellbent on recapturing the form that saw him climb to world No. 1 a couple of years ago, and he believes it is largely about what is happening in his mind. “I think if I want to be the best player in the world, I'll be the best player in the world,’’ he said. “And that's more the mindset that I have to take. I mean, a golf career is kind of like this (indicating), you know, and for me, how I work, that's just my mindset. If I want to put my mind to something, I know that there's pretty much nothing people can do about it. Because if I put my mind to it, it's going to happen.
“But, you know, saying that, I know how hard it is to climb that mountain, how hard it is to do the things that I did do, and how much work that you had to actually put into your game to get to that point. And sometimes it can be motivating, and sometimes it can be very difficult to look at, knowing that you've got so far to go.’’
Day texted his friend Tiger Woods the other day to chide him about the ‘MC Hammer’ pants he wore at the Open in 2004, having seen tape of that year’s event on television. “I’m like, hey, man, look at these pants. They’re terrible’.’’
But he knows that Woods’ appearance and his return to form will create plenty of excitement on Long Island this week; he witnessed it already when he talked to Woods on the putting green and suddenly found 30-40 people around him. “I think he's hungry for that next win and trying to get that — like not monkey off his back, because he's done it so many times — but just coming back and competing and playing well against our generation now.’’
There are nine Australians in the field this week, a huge number and something that Day is proud of. “I know there's a big mix of us, from David Bransdon, who is kind of an older guy, to Lucas (Herbert), who is a younger guy as well. But we've got a good group of guys over here right now.
“It's actually good to see because, obviously, with the population that we have — there's only 23 million Aussies, and a lot of them don't really play golf, but it's good to see that per capita we have a good chunk in the US Open this year.’’
Day’s US Open begins at 9.40pm Australian eastern time on Thursday, playing alongside the big-hitters Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka.<image="x" align="left" />