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Can 2023 be the year of Jason Day’s comeback?

 

Jason Day was seemingly on his way to becoming a multiple major winner at the top of the sport in 2015 by securing the PGA Championship. The Australian had been close on a number of occasions but made the breakthrough at Whistling Straits with a dominant performance to finish ahead of Jordan Spieth by three strokes. Although he missed out on further crowns in 2016, Day rose to the rank of world number one, finishing narrowly off the pace of Jimmy Walker at the PGA Championship.

Fall from Grace

Day’s form began to tail off in 2017, failing to record a victory on the PGA Tour amid personal problems. He seemed to get back on track in 2018 with victories at the Farmers Insurance Open and Wells Fargo, but he failed to record a top-10 finish in the majors for the first time in his career. Day bounced back at the start of 2019 at The Masters with a top-five finish, but that was a false dawn.

The Australian began to be hampered by back injuries that prevented him from stringing together performances on the course. His back problems resulted in Day attempting to adapt his swing, which caused issues with his mechanics. Instead of competing at the top, the Aussie hurtled down the world rankings.

Outside of one top-five finish at the PGA Championship in 2020, the last three years of Day’s career have been hugely disappointing. Setbacks and further issues away from the game have prevented him from competing at the top, so much so there were doubts about his future in the game. However, he has managed to ride out his poor spell of form and there are shoots of recovery emerging in the 2023 season.

Return to Form

Day still has a long way to go before he can return to prominence in the majors. He still has to qualify for The Masters in 2023 as he can’t bank on receiving an invite for the tournament, having never won the competition.

Six years ago Day would have been among the leading contenders for The Masters alongside favourites Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm who are respectively 15/2 and 8/1 in the betting odds as of 14th February. However, his fall from grace has left Day needing to rebuild his reputation in the minds of bookmakers as well as golf fans across the world.

He has started to find his form, developing a strong level of consistency on the course. Given that stringing together performances was his major issue during his decline, Day will be delighted to be putting himself in contention to win PGA Tour titles. There is still plenty of work ahead of the 35-year-old to take the next step to challenge Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy at the top of the world, but the progress is still welcome.

Day’s resurgence started in 2022 at the Shriners Open with a top-10 finish, which appeared to unlock his confidence. The Australian has gradually improved with every tournament on the PGA Tour this season. Out of ten events before the Genesis Open, he failed to make the cut only twice and recorded three finishes in the top 10.

Day flashed his old brilliance at the Phoenix Open, where only an average second round prevented him from competing with Scheffler for the crown. He finished seven strokes off the pace in fifth place, but it was his best performance since January 2022 when he placed third at the Farmers Insurance Open.

If those performances are a sign of things to come, Day could well be in contention for his first PGA Tour title in five years and perhaps even his first major in eight.

Getting Back on Top

More than any other player, Day has struggled with the mental side of the game, even at the peak of his powers. Now that he has started to build confidence, he might be able to put his game back together to challenge the best golfers in the world again.

He has had to deal with a number of issues, which have been both mentally and physically taxing. Day now appears to be in a better frame of mind to take on the challenges that golf can throw at you from shot to shot. At the age of 35, he still has plenty of time to add a second major or even more to his collection. 2023 could be the start of the second half of a fruitful career.

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