Jason Day had a great 2018. He won twice — in a Monday continuation of a playoff at Torrey Pines, then at Quail Hollow in May — and held on to his spot in the Official World Golf Ranking over 52 weeks.
Coming into 2019, Day is ranked 14th in the world, and he figures there’s a realistic chance he can regain the top spot in the world ranking this year. However, the Aussie isn’t thinking in terms of the number of wins it would take to leapfrog the likes of Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka. Rather, he’s looking at his performance statistics to set a goal for the year.
What’s the plan back to No. 1
“If I’m first in strokes gained putting, hit 70 percent of greens in regulation and hit 60-65 percent of fairways, then I’ll get back to No. 1,” Day told the Australian Associated Press ahead of this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
In 2018, Day finished second in strokes gained putting to Greg Chalmers (who played 19 fewer PGA Tour rounds than Day), hit 58.32 percent of fairways and 65.28 percent of greens in regulation. Day’s fairways and greens in regulation figures had him in the third fifth of PGA Tour players.
By comparison, when Day won five times, including the PGA Championship, in 2015, Day hit 70.82 percent of greens in regulation to rank seventh on the PGA Tour. He hit 55.94 percent of fairways (162nd) and ranked third in strokes gained putting.
The key for Day, then, isn’t as much hitting fairways as it is finding greens. Of course, that’s easier to do from the short grass, so the point remains.
But why focus on pure numbers rather than outcomes? For one, his idol and mentor Tiger Woods used to be practically a lock to win tournaments when he hit approximately those figures. Day probably had some idea of that. Further, Day is a big believer as most pros are in the long-term value of performing to a standard. Wins follow from consistent high-level performance, but there’s so much more variability in winning.
“I can’t control what they do, but if I reach my goals I will definitely win multiple times and that’s what I believe,” Day said.
If Day can play up to that 2015 level in terms of GIR and continue to putt as he has throughout the latter half of this decade, he can amass enough points to get in the top five again. With three or four wins, he might just tally enough to be No. 1 yet again.