Consultation with Tiger Woods about cortisone injections for his troublesome back injury has convinced Jason Day that he can not only complete 72 holes at THE PLAYERS this week but repeat his victory from 2016.
Day withdrew early in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week citing a back injury and then, for the first time in his career, had four injections around his spine in order to alleviate some of the pain he was in.
In addition to consulting with his team, Day called on Woods to try and gauge what kind of effect such injections would have on his ability to play.
“I talked to him about, obviously, what it was like getting injections,” Day revealed leading up to his opening round alongside reigning Open champion Francesco Molinari and American Tony Finau.
“My big concern was if I got them, how long would it last, and it just depends on the person.
“For him it lasted three days, so going into it you're like, well, OK, hopefully mine lasts a little bit longer.
“But I have to be more disciplined with regards to that. Some guys that are younger or don't have back issues or have no issues at all, I've got to be a lot more disciplined in that regard with my physio and my training to stay on top of it. That's just my genetic makeup with regards to my back.
“We're all playing with a certain amount of aches and pains, but my long-term confidence with regards to my back, I'm not even thinking about it right now.
“I feel really cautiously optimistic about how things are progressing and the way that I feel.
“When pain starts shooting down my legs, that's obviously a no-go, and then my back seizes up and I can't really walk, that's when I start getting it.
“It's not great for you mentally to come back from an injury, so your confidence is kind of like hit a little bit, but overall I feel good about it.”
Since his win in 2016 Day has finished tied for 60th in 2017 and tied for fifth in 2018 but has never played the iconic Pete Dye layout in tournament mode in March.
Two weeks ago he played two rounds to familiarise himself prior to arriving for tournament week and knows he is facing a different golf course to the one he triumphed at three years ago.
“It's obviously a lot different to what we're used to seeing in May,” Day said on Tuesday.
“Obviously a lot of dry, firm fairways, dry greens, quick greens so I am excited to see how the course actually plays. I know it's going to present very well on TV.
“Typically we have got a southeasterly wind here and that's easier coming down 17 and 18.
“I played it with a northeasterly, north-northeasterly today, and I hit 9-iron into 17, and then I hit driver, 5-iron into 18.
“With the southeasterly (in 2016) I remember hitting 2-iron, 54-degree wedge into it.
“You have to drive it really well because when I won here, I just hit 2-iron everywhere because it was firm. But now you're hitting a lot more drivers and 3-woods off tees.
“It's going to play longer, but it's going to be easier around the greens with regards to chipping and bunker work and all that stuff.
“Amazing difference of a couple of months.”
When he won THE PLAYERS IN 2016 Day topped the driving distance for the week with an average of 311.6 yards.
It is the longest average driving distance of any winner at TPC Sawgrass but is by no means a long-bomber’s paradise.
Dustin Johnson has never once finished inside the top-10 at THE PLAYERS which to Day indicates that any player in the 144-man field is capable of hoisting the trophy on Sunday.
“A lot of players have won here and it's been a wide array of players with regards to what they're type of play is,” said Day.
“Short, long, crooked, straight, good short game, not a good short game.
“To be honest, I have no clue why. I finished sixth one year, and then I kind of half worked out a little bit and then I've won and then I've played semi-decent from there.
“But I've mixed that in with some missed cuts, as well.
“I don't have an answer. I would like to hear an answer, if you've got one, but I don't think anyone knows, really, to be honest.”
Day and Adam Scott are the two Aussies in the field to have tasted success at TPC Sawgrass, joining Greg Norman and Steve Elkington as former champions from Australia.
There are a total of five Australians in the field this week with Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Aaron Baddeley joining Day and Scott with Kiwi Danny Lee the sole representative from New Zealand.
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