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March 12, 2019
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
MARK WILLIAMS: We'd like to welcome Jason Day, the 2016 PLAYERS champion, to the interview room here at the 2019 PLAYERS Championship. Jason, you've had a chance to look at the golf course over the last couple of days.
JASON DAY: Yeah.
MARK WILLIAMS: Just some thoughts on what it looks to you out there.
JASON DAY: It's great. I was here a couple weeks ago, and then obviously here practicing again, it's obviously a lot different to what we're used to seeing in May. 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. It's going to look nice, and I'm excited to see how it actually goes with -- typically we have got a southeasterly wind here and that's pretty easy off -- I shouldn't say easy, but it'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. So this is -- with the southeasterly I remember winning, and I hit a 2-iron, 54-degree wedge into it. So just amazing difference of a couple few months. So excited to see.
MARK WILLIAMS: We'll jump straight into questions.
Q. I know you really want to come out and perform well here. Did you have to go through a medical procedure injection or anything to help alleviate the nerve pain?
JASON DAY: Yeah, so I pulled out Thursday of last week and ended up driving down to Palm Beach from Orlando and saw a doctor Tom Roush, who is a spinal surgeon down in the Palm Beach area, and there was a lot of discussion between myself, Bud, my whole team, and my head medical doctor, Jimmy Bradley, who is up in Pittsburgh, and I mean that's -- yeah, I guess I've never had injections before, so we did four injections in and around the spine, and that obviously has alleviated a lot of the pain, but he wanted me to not lay around the next day.
So Friday I heard there was a photo going on social media about me enjoying a day with my family. Heaven forbid I enjoy a day with my family, and I was there half a day walking around. He didn't want me to lay down. He just wanted me to walk around, stay on my feet, kind of get things loose, and then after that I went and saw my physio, Stewart, at the golf course. So just a lot of physio. Obviously those four needles have helped a lot, and I'm looking forward to kind of getting this week underway.
Q. Do you feel like the guys who have only experienced this tournament in May are at any kind of a disadvantage to the 20 or so guys who have played it in March who are still competitive such as Tiger, Phil, Vijay's playing pretty well, Adam? Do you think they have a little bit more knowledge?
JASON DAY: I don't believe so. I don't think so. I know that there are guys who have played it before and they know how the course actually plays, but that's a long time ago. Last time it was played it was 2006, so and we have played 10 or 11 -- well sorry, more than that, longer than that, of firm, dry conditions and heat, and I know that with their experience the golf course has played totally different, and you can probably remember a certain few shots that you've hit way back then, but you won't remember the whole course of how it played.
I know the big thing is making sure that the weather is suitable for us. It can be -- I remember it being here last year at the same time as what the PLAYERS was going to be. It was 45 degrees and blowing 30 miles an hour. So that's the only tough part about this is that the weather can have a huge factor in how the score finishes. 24-under has been as low as it possibly has been in the March date, and then I think as high as 3-under has won this, as well. So there's a very big gap, and that's obviously due to the fact of the weather.
Q. Do you feel like the practice you had last year and then you came in here a little bit early this time, do you feel like you had enough preparation time?
JASON DAY: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I've played the course four times now. Played the course twice when I was here two weeks ago, and I've played the course twice this week. So going back towards the back, I've played two 18-hole rounds in the last two days, so I feel pretty good with how things are progressing in that regard. But the playability-wise with how receptive things are, the greens, a little bit on the softer side of things, I know they have had a good amount of rain last week, and last night we had about half an inch, so things are a little bit softer.
Q. How is your long-term confidence with the back, and have you talked to Tiger about it?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I talked to him about, obviously, what it was like getting injections, and my big concern was if I got them, how long would it last, and it just depends on the person. I think for him it lasted three days, so going into it you're like, well, okay, hopefully mine takes a little bit longer to last. 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.
If you look, walk down the range here, there's probably maybe half or three quarters of the field have some sort of kind of injury or back pain or some sort of injury in their body. So 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.
And the hard thing about injuries is that no matter how many times you've had them, it feels like your world's ending; you know what I mean? It honestly feels like, am I going to -- is this going to be the last time that I'm going to pick up a golf club. And it just, 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.
Q. When did this start hurting you first?
JASON DAY: So I've had back issues ever since I was 13. So we can go through my past history report ever since I was 13 years old.
Q. Most recently.
JASON DAY: Yeah, most recently it was two weeks ago when I was here. So I jumped on a dose pack two weeks ago, tried to see if I could alleviate some of the pain, and unfortunately -- it did alleviate some of the pain, but unfortunately I woke up Sunday and I couldn't really do much. I was like kind of locked into position. So that was the Sunday before Bay Hill, trying to get physio as much as I could, and just unfortunately -- sometimes when I go out and play it loosens my back up, but Thursday came around and I was playing and I could just feel it getting tighter and tighter. The longer I went on, the harder, the longer it takes to recover or come back and kind of loosen the muscles up to kind of get yourself out of it. So I know how these things come about. I've just got to get as much rest as I can, unfortunately, but this is mid season so I got to try and play through it.
Q. What exactly were the injections, like painkilling or anti-inflammatory?
JASON DAY: Yeah, what are they? Cortisone shots. Anti-inflammatory.
Q. Secondly, you mentioned the social media and the photo and stuff. Do you ever feel like you may be taking punches with your hands tied behind your back when as the athlete you have to take the higher ground?
JASON DAY: Oh, a hundred percent. It's like when have you a fan yell at you on the golf course, you can't -- you want to go over there and get into him, but unfortunately it makes you look bad. And that's the same with social media. That person that took a photo took a tremendous photo of me. I actually liked it. But it was kind of creepy, just on the side.
But it's hard because when you're in the spotlight, I guess, to a certain degree, you have to act in a professional manner, and you are -- you do have your hand tied behind your back because you can't bite back sometimes because it makes you look worse off. And yet you're put on a pedestal as an athlete or as a celebrity, I guess, and as soon as you bite on what they're trying to get at, you can't really -- you don't gain anything from it, other than it makes you look sour or angry or bitter and sometimes it's unfortunate, because you just -- you can't really defend yourself, even though I know what you guys went and did on that over the weekend, but that's just social media and that's why I don't look at it. I don't really, I don't look at it. I have an Instagram account, I have Twitter, but I really don't look at it too much. I just don't. I try not to pay attention to it.
It's the same with fans yelling at you on the golf course if they're kind of booing against you or they're going for you, but like people yelling stuff at you, you just kind of somehow get a -- put your blinders on and not look at it.
Q. With your withdrawals, are you maybe more of an easier target than other players?
JASON DAY: I've withdrawn nine times out of 230 something events. I mean, that's pretty low percentage. I mean, it's not a lot. I heard some article about sports betting and some nonsense about reports with regards to injuries. I'm like, I mean, are we going to get into psych reports now, too, if you have a fight with your missus at home? You know, I mean like it's just -- and these things, like you're going down kind of a really rocky road when it comes to that stuff.
But yeah, like I said, I just don't want to pay attention to it. I just try and put my work in, try and win as many tournaments as I can and then let some other young buck take the heat.
Q. Along with the win, you've been in contention here a few other times. But a lot of the bigger names have struggled to consistently contend here. I was just wondering if you had any kind of theory why that was, like Dustin has never had a top-10 here, for instance, and Justin Rose only has the one?
JASON DAY: That helps us, because he's playing really good right now. Yeah, like you said, I don't think it sets up to any -- I don't I think it sets up to anyone's game. I shouldn't say it doesn't set up to anyone's game. 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, short, long, crooked, straight, good short game, not a good short game. And that just goes to show what kind of course architect the Dye family had with regards to what they're trying to project a player and a certain player to play a hole and there's so many options that you can play.
So to be honest, I have no clue why. I don't have anything other than I've played really, really terrible. 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. So 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.
Q. Do you like coming to a tournament where it's 144 players and anybody could win?
JASON DAY: Yeah. I mean, I mean that's pretty much nearly every week, to be honest now. The guys are so good. But I wonder what the guy who comes -- it's when Charles Howell goes to the Sony Open, he is pretty much a stock standard top-10 guy or a win. It's never -- I don't know if there's anyone out there that plays that well at this golf course. And that's what's so interesting about it.
Yeah, it's a difficult golf course where it's -- now it's more so you have to drive it really well because when I won here, I just hit 2-iron everywhere because it was firm. But now when you're hitting a lot more drivers and 3-woods off tees, the greens are a little softer, but obviously they're trying to firm them out. But yeah, it's definitely going to play a little bit different. 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. The greens are running nice.
Yeah, we did a report. I think it was like 12-under was the average winning score if you take the 24- and 3-under total, so I would be looking somewhere in around that one, around there, 12- to 15-under to win here. So, yeah, I don't know.
Q. This competition is dubbed the unofficial fifth major. Is there any part of you that would want it to have major status, or are you too much of a believer in tradition?
JASON DAY: No, I want it to have major status, yeah. It would be good. I've won one before. It would be like winning the 1992 Grammy Awards. So it's just, you know, I'm excited. I think it starts with you guys first. It starts with you guys to be able to come out and say this is a major feel, and that's what the projection that we -- because honestly, I -- when you come to an event like this and you're playing in a tournament on a large scale, it feels like a major.
So I think, I don't know what the process is to have THE PLAYERS and then all of a sudden it's a major. I don't know who says it or how it gets started, but I think if the players talk about it enough and they say this is a major instead of this is our fifth major, however they phrase it, I think if they start calling it a major, then eventually it will change over time. But I think the PGA TOUR and THE PLAYERS would like it a major, especially Tiger. I think he would like it. Add to his major list.
Q. Do you guys talk about it?
JASON DAY: Every now and then, if you talk amongst each other. But like I said, it's just a different feel. You're playing here and it is not like a PGA TOUR event, like your normal typical PGA TOUR event. It's on a grand scale of it. Like I said, it feels like a major with all the grandstands and the way that things are set up now and the way when you walk around the golf course you see the marquee tents, the way that things are done, and the people that come out to this event, it's a bigger event. Hopefully fingers crossed one day that it becomes a major because it has that feel and it's got a lot of history behind it, and that's the good thing about playing at a golf course every single year, the same golf course, is that there's a lot of history and people can remember certain golf shots that people have hit over the past.
Q. To follow on from that, now that the PLAYERS does have this March date again in the calendar and it does kind of kick off the season of championships, bookends the majors with the FedExCup, do you guys as players now view this tournament differently or put more emphasis or on it in your calendar when you're planning each year because it now really is the first big tournament that you turn up to each calendar year?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I mean, it definitely is, but they have raised the purse this year and I know that they're probably most likely going to raise the purse next year, so with that being said, yeah, they're always kind of leading the way with regards to that. I know having a big tournament for the next four, five months every month is key and that's kind of the -- the hard thing is that they -- having a March date, I think a lot of guys probably really use this as a tune-up for Augusta, and they would kind of come out and say that, and I don't -- I honestly prep to try and win this event, and when Augusta comes, I prep to try and win that tournament.
So this has, I think, become a big event in regards to not many guys will kind of pull out of it. If it wasn't a big event, some guys would withdraw if they haven't played well, and I don't think you see that anymore. I think this is probably arguably one of the strongest fields in golf, and a lot of guys show up to play this event and try and win it.
I mean, I -- I don't know how else to explain it. There's a lot of great names on the trophy, and if you said that at the end of your career could have a PLAYERS Championship and you asked the guys out on the range, I think 99 percent of them would probably put their hand up and say, yeah, I would like that.
Q. How was Disney World?
JASON DAY: Fantastic. Yeah, it was great. I didn't get to ride any rides, I was just walking around, unfortunately, but yeah, it was nice to be able to spend some time with the family. I mean I can't be in the -- like when I have an injury, I get sad and depressed. I mean that's the biggest thing, I'm not going to be sitting in my bus depressed and especially when the doctors tell me to go and walk, so I'm going to go and make sure that I hang out with my family because I do have a life other than golf.
Q. And with the social media stuff, where do you draw the line between people just joking around and things that are actually mean-spirited and offensive?
JASON DAY: I mean, I don't care, like if people make memes about me, I think a lot of them are funny. I think that -- I mean, it's fine. It is what it is. People trying to be funny and that, I get a good laugh out of it and I'm okay with that. You can tell between people that are being funny and people that are actually trying to -- that really hate you. It's unfortunate, but it just reflects what they are as a person, because it means -- I don't have a problem with them, they have a problem with me. So it's more on them than myself.
A really good piece of advice that I heard one time is when you get back at people like that, you got to live well and prosper. You've just got to enjoy what you can, try and get better each and every day, live well, and try and grow. And if you cannot even pay attention to people that are -- I mean, it's like when you're going through school and you get bullied at school. I mean I got bullied, I mean, a lot at school, but it's just words. So you just got to take it on the chin and just get up and go again.
It's something that -- once again -- sometimes it's hard to, when you see someone write something or someone says something to you, you feel like deep down inside you want to defend yourself, but like you're in a better spot; you know what I mean? You're walking inside the ropes, you're playing golf for a living, you're doing a lot of good things. I've got a good family. I've got three kids that are healthy and happy at home. I'm in a tremendous spot.
So I just sometimes it's -- like I said, sometimes it's hard to bite my tongue, but I got to do as best as I can to, I guess, project what kind of image I'm trying to get across to people, and I've got sponsors that put their time and effort into me, so I got to look out for their best interests as well.
Q. As you evaluate the competition out here on the world stage, not counting yourself, but what player or players would you say is the most difficult to beat out here when they are on their game?
JASON DAY: D.J., Rory when he's -- I think when his mind's right and he's putting good, I think he's explosive. The guys that you got to watch out for, yeah, I mean it's hard, it depends on their personality. Because if the guy, if he's out here and he doesn't care about anyone else and he's just a complete savage, they're the guys that you typically have to worry about, because they don't care about anyone other than themselves. It's like they're there to do one job and that's win a tournament.
And that's kind of the mentality that kind of Tiger had back in the day, and I kind of remember that. A lot of these guys out here now, they haven't really gone through that phase of what Tiger was like when he played dominant golf. And he had that mentality. But even to a certain degree, Tiger, I mean, when he's playing well, you can still feel it. I don't know if they feel it, but I know what that feeling is. It's like, oh, man, he's chasing us. You feel like there's someone behind you; you know what I mean? You can't not look back and see what's going on.
So there's a number of guys that are on the list that I'm missing. I mean, I know when Jordan's in a good frame of mind and he's putting well, I mean he's just so mentally strong. They all have great attributes. Justin Thomas I think all around is probably the best all around. I mean, Dustin Johnson's playing pretty good golf right now, but there's a lot of guys out there that can compete and play well, but typically the guys that are No. 1 in the world who are the dominant guys have an all-around game.
You can't be -- you can dominate kind of one category, whether that's driving or irons or putting or chipping. You can dominate one, but typically you have to be ranked pretty high with regards to all of those stats to really dominate and win on a consistent basis, and that's what D.J.'s doing, that's what Justin Thomas is doing, that's what Rory has. When he's putting well, that's what he does. You don't see like these guys that are Top-30 in their rankings and then 150th in either putting or short game; you know what I mean? So there's things like that. But yeah, those are the kind of the names that kind of come to mind when I think about it.
Q. Assuming everything goes right this week, is it still your plan to play next week? And just your thoughts on the way the Florida Swing is set up now.
JASON DAY: Yeah, I think it's -- I think some of the -- I know that Honda took a little bit of a hit with regards to like the star power that they typically have, obviously because it's kind of right on the back end of Mexico. I like the Florida swing, how it's kind of set up. I am going to play next week. I'm planning on playing next week and I'm planning on playing the Match Play. I was supposed to play four in a row, and that very rarely happens with me playing four in a row. But it is nice to have these in a row.
I mean, I don't really sit down and try and schedule my events. I know that I look at this each month and go, okay, these are the main events that I want to play, obviously THE PLAYERS, and I try and build something around there. So when I look at my schedule at the start of the year, it's not so much the actual Florida Swing itself, it's like what do I need to do to hit certain things or with regards to amount of events that I need to play or if it's like certain big tournaments like that.
Q. How much do you study your own analytics, and are there certain statistics that mean more to you than others?
JASON DAY: I study them a lot. My iron play is key. I mean, I've gone through stages where I've said, I need to improve my driving, if I can improve my driving, give myself more opportunities, but I think if you take in everything, strokes gained approach is crucial. Is probably the most crucial that you need to play well out here. And that's one thing that I probably don't have. I've relied a lot on my driving and my putting or short game back in 2015, 2016, which helped a lot. I was gaining an unbelievable amount of strokes when I was putting, and that's why I had such a stellar two years.
But if I can improve, if I can get my greens in regulation to 70 percent but also get the proximity in, which will end up bringing that strokes gained ranking closer to the top, I'll give myself more opportunities on the greens, and if I can putt at No. 1, and strokes gained, then I should have another year like I did in 2015. So that's the big thing that I'm trying to focus on.
MARK WILLIAMS: Jason we appreciate your time. Good luck trying to win your second PLAYERS Championship but your first Tiffany trophy.
JASON DAY: Exactly. Thank you, mate.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports