Had Jason Day won the US Open last month, it would have registered as one of the great sporting stories in many a year.
And the most remarkable in golf, surely, since Tiger Woods famously won the same event while effectively on one leg in 2008.
A bout of the vertigo which has plagued Day to varying degrees since 2010 meant he collapsed on a fairway at the final hole of his second round. In defying all reasonable logic, the Australian later tied for the 54-hole lead. His finishing place in a share of ninth was rightly regarded as an outstanding effort.
This week at the Open, Day is back on the major stage. He played 18 Sunday afternoon holes in the company of a past champion, John Daly. But before looking forward, Day inevitably admitted to fears over what had gone before.
“I’m on anti-viral medication and that suppresses it,” he said of what has been diagnosed as an inner ear infection. “So hopefully I won’t have another episode here. It’s vertigo. It comes and goes. There is a concern at the back of my mind, but I just have to deal with that and go out and play golf. It happened at the US Open, and I’m just hoping it doesn’t happen again here.
“I went and saw a doctor in Columbus, Dr Oas. We sat there and talked for at least an hour and a half about history, when I first got it, all that sort of stuff. We debriefed the last five years. He did tests on me and prescribed these medicines. I am on them until October and then on 19 October I go back for more tests. After those tests we will sit down again and go over those results. If I need to stay on the medicine I will stay on the medicine, otherwise I will jump off them. I asked him if this was something I would have to stay on for the rest of my life; he said possibly, it could be, but we will see how it goes.”
Day is outwardly candid and calm about a situation which hasn’t been remedied completely since his last golfing event. “Just a little bit here and there but it hasn’t been as severe as Chambers Bay,” he said. “Every now and then I would look a certain direction and my vision would shake a little bit but nothing too bad.”
Day offers a firm retort when the general surprise that he completed the second major of the year is put to him. “I would ask you, if you had the opportunity to win the US Open would you do that as well? A lot of people would say yes. If it had happened on the 16th or 17th, there is no chance I was going to finish. I was just glad that I was up around the green where I could get it done. I had a litre and a half of intravenus in me then went to hospital that night.
“They prescribed two drugs, Zofran and Meclizine. Zofran is given to cancer patients for sickness after chemotherapy. I was pretty sick for the next two days, I didn’t feel great. I was shaky but the vertigo symptoms were not as severe. I don’t know how I played that well on Saturday. It would have been nice to play better on Sunday but just to get it done was great. Hopefully I don’t have to go through that again.
“I was just so happy that a lot of people were supporting me. There were a couple of times throughout the tournament that I felt I couldn’t carry on any more, that I would have to go in. I just kept on pushing through and counting down the holes that were left. I didn’t really look at my Twitter because it was blowing up. My agent got a lot of emails, calls and text messages. I got the same. That was all nice. It made me happy that they were all supporting me. It would have been great if I had won the tournament, it would have been a great story.”
This time around, Day has returned to the scene of his first major appearance. Given he retains the distance which has been tipped as important at an unusually lush St Andrews, and is a terrific lag putter, the world No8 should be considered as a real hope. Don’t dare mention to Day that he may not relish standing on the 72nd tee holding a one-shot lead.
“The pressure? I would love that pressure and stress,” he insisted. “I think Saturday was more about fighting through and not really caring about what other people are doing. That’s why being sick is OK sometimes because you are just focused on trying to get it done, try and get through every shot that you have.
“When you are healthy, sometimes you start looking at leaderboards, start looking at other guys. I really focused on myself and I took a lot of positive stuff out of that week. Even though I was sick, I learned a lot.
“I feel healthy and ready to go. I’m excited about playing this golf course. I feel good about my game and I’m excited about being healthy. Now I want to get in contention again, that’s the plan.”
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