US PGA Championship: Day battling to recapture best form at Baltusrol


At Whistling Straits last year, Jason Day finally did what everybody expected of him and won a major championship.

The Australian had recorded nine top-10 finishes prior to his triumph at the US PGA Championship, including three runner-up placings.

Day finished three shots clear of Jordan Spieth at 20 under, a record score for a major which has since been matched by Henrik Stenson's remarkable effort to win The Open at Royal Troon earlier this month.

Many thought Day's victory would open the floodgates and pave the way for further success in 2016, and it seemed that would be the case as he added this year's Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play and the Players Championship to his growing list of achievements.

But in 2016's majors, Day has struggled to get among the serious contenders atop the leaderboard, his best effort represented by an eighth-place finish at the U.S. Open, won by Dustin Johnson.

Johnson is now closing in on Day's number one ranking, something the Australian is keen to protect.

"It is added motivation for sure," he said. "Obviously I want to keep the world number one spot but I can't focus on it too much.

"The biggest thing for me is to focus on what I need to do to play well. I can't attach myself to the thought of keeping it, I have to focus on trying to prepare the best I can and execute and play well."

After taking out the Players Championship in May, Day tied for 27th at the Memorial Tournament following a final-round 74.

Then with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational trophy in his grasp, he bogeyed the 15th and 18th holes, either side of a double bogey at the 17th to hand Johnson victory in a stunning capitulation to eventually place third.

At The Open, Day was never really in contention, carding four consecutive rounds in the 70s, while he failed to recover from a second-round 76 as he surrendered his RBC Canadian Open crown last week.

As such, the 28-year-old comes into the defence of his US PGA crown lacking momentum.

Upon arriving at Baltusrol, Day opted not to practice on Monday, choosing instead to rest following a gruelling schedule which he admits has left him jaded.

"It takes it out of you more when you're playing terrible because you are thinking about it," he said.

"But I have been trying to rest and recover as best I can over the last two weeks and I know I'll be fresh and ready to practice Tuesday and Wednesday.

"I know it is going to be really hot so I need to slowly ease my way into it after the last two days in Canada were confidence building."

For Day - grouped with fellow former PGA champions Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson for the opening two rounds - it is that confidence which will be key if he is to recapture the form that saw him lift the Wanamaker Trophy so impressively last year.