DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The Memorial has all the trappings of a home event for Jason Day.
He met his wife in Ohio and now lives about 25 minutes away from Muirfield Village Golf Club. He is a member at the course Jack Nicklaus built. Just don’t get the idea that the former world No. 1 has any kind of an advantage.
“Today was the first round I’ve played at Muirfield this year,” Day said Wednesday after a pro-am round with former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. “I’ve played here for many years now. I’ve been so busy and been on the road that I haven’t had the opportunity.”
And when he plays the Memorial, he hasn’t done very well.
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In eight appearances, Day has yet to crack the top 25. He has shot in the 60s only six times in 26 rounds.
It’s not always easy playing at home, even an adopted hometown for the 29-year-old Australian.
Day had a reasonable chance last year. He was one shot out of the lead until a chip to the 18th green rolled back down to the fairway at the end of the third round and he took double bogey. Three behind going into the final round, he closed with a 74 and tied for 27th.
Day, who had hopes in January of keeping his No. 1 ranking all year, has slipped to No. 3 with ordinary play brought on in part by extraordinary circumstances. His mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the outlook was bleak until he brought her from Australia to Ohio for surgery. Prospects for a recovery are so good that his mother has returned to work in Australia.
His game is showing signs of turning around, too. Day nearly won the AT&T Byron Nelson two weeks ago until he three-putted on the first playoff hole to lose to Billy Horschel. Now he wants to see if he can carry that momentum to Muirfield Village.
The timing would be ideal for Day and everyone else gearing up for a big summer of majors.
The U.S. Open is in two weeks. The British Open follows a month later, and then the PGA Championship. The dynamics are far different than in April for the Masters, the first major of the year and the first in some seven months. Now, it’s one major after another.
“It’s a very major season now, so you’re just doing what you can to be ready every week,” Adam Scott said. “It seems like you can plan and predict what’s going to happen after the Masters, and the Masters is the unknown. You’re trying to do everything right for so long to be ready for it, and you’re not sure. But now you know what you’ve done at the Masters. It’s a little easier going into the next major. And then I think it will be easy going into the next one because it’s so close together.”
The road leading up to the Masters featured three straight victories by Dustin Johnson, two straight at the start of year by Justin Thomas, one by Jordan Spieth at Pebble, Hideki Matsuyama in Phoenix, Rickie Fowler at the Honda Classic and was capped off by Sergio Garcia in a green jacket.
Since then, no one from inside the top 40 in the world has won on the PGA Tour. Two of the six winners (Wesley Bryan and Kevin Chappell) were first-time winners. Three others (Brian Harman, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Kisner) picked up their second PGA Tour victory.
Maybe that trend will continue at Muirfield Village, where the last three champions had never won on the PGA Tour, most recently William McGirt.
The Memorial, as usual, has a major field.
Rory McIlroy pulled out to rest his ribs ahead of the U.S. Open, as did Justin Rose, citing a sore back.
Dustin Johnson remains the favorite just about everywhere he goes as the No. 1 player in the world. By his recent standards, he is coming off two pedestrian weeks when he tied for 12th at The Players Championship and tied for 13th at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
He finished one shot out of a playoff last year at the Memorial, the start of six straight top 10s that included his U.S. Open victory at Oakmont and a World Golf Championship title at Firestone.
Johnson thinks he might be headed in the same direction. He had won three straight tournaments until a slip down the downstairs knocked him out of the Masters.
“Before I injured myself, I was playing really well,” Johnson said. “Everything was just really solid. But it’s getting back to where I’m getting a lot more comfortable and a lot more confident in the game. The game from last year to this year is not really much different.”