Day has a curious habit of arriving at majors when suffering from various ailments. This time, it was not the world No1 himself who encountered pre-tournament problems. Day left an accident and emergency ward in New Jersey at 2am on Wednesday, his wife Ellie having suffered a violent allergic reaction – the cause of which is unknown – resulting in a full body rash.
“I’m kind of running on empty right now,” said Day. “She’s fine. Everything was great but I had to call the paramedics over. Ellie was kind of freaking out in the back of the bus [Day’s motorhome] which is understandable because she got all red. I’ve been in that situation before when I first ate seafood. That’s why I don’t eat seafood any more, I started swelling up.
“So I was kind of calm about it but she was freaking out in the back on the bus. She’s fine now. We got a little bit of loss of sleep but we’re fine.”
It should be noted that the golfer, who won his first major at Whistling Straits last August, was taken aback by questions relating to this, rather than having offered it up as some form of pre-Baltusrol excuse. This was not raconteur material; Day was apparently reluctant to speak about the matter. There is more. Day’s first look at the venue for the final major of the year was on Wednesday, when he played 18 holes of practice. This does not exactly register as standard buildup for a player of the Australian’s standing.
“I haven’t seen the course, I don’t know what it looks like,” said Day on Wednesday morning. “I was with Doug Steffen, the head pro here, last night at the champions’ dinner. I went through pretty much every hole with him for about 20, 30 minutes. I’m going to try and touch them all today but obviously the prep’s been a little on the lighter side. I need to come in and try to get a good, solid 18 holes in today so I kind of know where I’m going.”
The reason behind Day’s approach is, of course, simple: scheduling. The 28-year-old has endured a more monotonous time than most, having played the Open and the Canadian Open in the fortnight leading up to the US PGA. How Day will relish an upcoming break. First, though, he wants to win his first major of 2016.
“With the limited practice and limited prep that I’ve had this week, I’m not coming into this week expecting a lot,” Day said. “I mean, I’m expecting to win but I’m not really going: ‘All right, you need to go out and force things straightaway.’ I’ve got to really try and manage my patience out there, because I have very little patience right now. The biggest thing is to really manage my ego in a sense, to sometimes pull back or when I do feel comfortable be able to attack it, know that there’s consequence and knowing exactly where I need to miss it.”
Baltusrol could easily be overpowered. That lends itself to a Day, Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy victory. Big-hitting outsiders such as Gary Woodland are also not without a chance. History tells us Henrik Stenson deals in seriously hot streaks, meaning the Open champion has live prospects here.
Another quirk is the claiming of the last four majors by first-time winners. This should give the likes of Sergio García renewed hope. “I understand how difficult it is to win every week,” said the Spaniard. “I always said it; it doesn’t matter if it’s a major. It doesn’t matter where it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the US, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa. It is tough to win. Nowadays there’s a level of play from guys that’s so much higher than it used to be. So that is great for the game of golf.
“Hopefully it will happen for me. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to change my life. I’m not going to go in a cave and stay there until I die because I didn’t win a major or anything like that. It’s not that serious.”
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