DESPITE claiming the 2016 US Open at Oakmont Country Club was the most stressful week of his life, Australian Jason Day was all smiles on tournament Tuesday.
The World Number One comes into the week recovering from a cold and it was notable in his nasally tones, but he reaffirmed he was ready to take on, arguably, the world’s toughest course.
“You can probably hear it in my voice, but I’m fine,” Day said after a practice round at Oakmont.
“I’m going to do fine. It’s not an excuse. I’m going to be ready for Thursday.”
Although Day believes his father-in-law passed the virus on to him during the recent Memorial Tournament in Ohio, the Queenslander ascribed a weakened immune system to the expectation and pressure he has felt as the world’s best player.
“It’s just that things happen. I was just going to say that I’ve never been more stressed in my life than right now,” said Day.
“It’s just because being World Number One, having a lot of expectations on you, having to practise so hard to keep that Number One spot, trying to win as many tournaments as I can puts a lot of stress and pressure on your shoulders.
“Sometimes your immune system gets a little heated and you’re more susceptible to getting some illnesses that way.
“I’m not trying to make any excuses this week.”
But as Thursday draws near and for every ball he hits, the eyes of world golf will be on Day no matter how he performs.
The Australian, however, has one tool in his locker - a great record at the US Open and self belief he knows will guide him through a tournament that attempts to test players like no other.
Last year at Chambers Bay, Day fought his way into final day contention after a bout of vertigo but his health eventually got to him and he finished in a share of ninth.
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In 2011 (when he made his US Open debut) and again in 2013 Day finished outright second behind Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose respectively.
A share of fourth at Pinehurst two years ago is Day’s third-best result and his worst was a tie for 59th at The Olympic Club in 2012, but he is yet to miss a cut in five attempts.
“This is one tournament that is very stressful and I feel like I thrive under stress,” Day said, “and hopefully I can do that this year.
“Practically the whole course is tough. You've just got to go with it and try and play your best and hope for the best sometimes.
“I think when you’re in stressful situations like you are at US Opens, where this is usually the toughest course we play every single year, you have to come in with a positive attitude regardless of what the outcome is.
“If you’re going to have a bad attitude, you may as well not even tee it up that week because you probably won’t play good anyway.”
Amongst all the expectation and pressure, though, Day was honest about his approach to the game and even saved some time to show his humorous side.
“A lot of people around the world just don’t realise how tough it is to win, especially trying to hit a little golf ball that size,” Day said with a smile as he made a small circle with his right thumb and index.
“And get it in a hole 400 yards away. You know what I mean? It’s very, very difficult sometimes and we’re trying to do it the best we can.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work our way.”
As has been for the past year when Day has won multiple times, you would expect his family to take centre stage with him on Sunday night if he was to win his second major.
Recently, Dash appeared in a commercial for one of Day’s sponsors and went to Columbus in Ohio with his mum Ellie to record a voiceover.
“Ellie was going through the lines with him and then they started talking to him from Atlanta and he kind of got little shy,” Day said. “But it ended up turning out great.
“And then when I first saw the commercial, especially at the end when he says, "I love you, daddy,” I just started crying.”
As for his seven-month-old daughter Lucy, Day had a comparison to make between his two children and reserved some humour usually found in fathers.
“[Dash] is a humongous toddler. He’s very big. And you should see Lucy, she’s even bigger,” Day joked.
“She’s a fatty. It’s fine. Like Ellie, I think she has proven shakes in those things. I don’t know what she’s doing.
“But for some reason, she’s a very, very big baby. I don’t know how other people have real tiny babies.”
Day plays the first two rounds of the 2016 US Open with compatriot Adam Scott and South African major winner Louis Oosthuizen.
On Thursday, that group will tee off form the 1st tee at 2:20pm (local time).
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