Last week, defending PGA champion Jason Day dropped by Springfield, NJ’s Baltusrol Golf Club, site of this year’s event from July 28-31, for a chat with the press. The number-one player in the world was relaxed and witty as he talked about the golf course, his game, and his future in response to questions from the PGA of America’s Julius Mason.
Day hadn’t yet played at Baltusrol, so he took notes intently as club officials described the changes since Phil Mickelson won there in 2005. The AW Tillinghast masterpiece has been lengthened considerably—among other tweaks, the 17th hole now measures 649 yards—and bunkering has been updated as well.
“It’s amazing what this golf course has seen over the years,” Day said, referencing Baltusrol club’s rich history of having hosted seven U.S. Opens, four U.S. Amateurs, two U.S. Women’s Opens and Amateurs, as well as a pair of PGA Championships.. “It’s one where you really want to win because you want it on your resume. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Day won last year’s Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and has notched three victories on the PGA Tour this season, including The Players Championship. He made top-10 finishes in this year’s Masters and U.S. Open. He’s been atop the world golf rankings for 17 weeks and has every intention of staying there. “I am very greedy when it comes to winning,” he admitted. “But Tiger [Woods] was # 1 for 683 weeks, which is ridiculous. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
A big part of that work is getting his body into shape. Day figures he’s 12 to 18 months from peaking physically, which may be bad news for his opponents. How much better will he play when his new trainer whips him into real fighting trim? Day has fought through several injuries during his career, not to mention the televised bout with vertigo he suffered during the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. He says he wants to put on five to 10 more pounds while lowering his body fat. The idea isn’t just to play better, but to prevent injuries so he can continue his career until he’s at least 40.
What happens then? “When I get to 40, I’m going to re-evaluate,” the 28-year-old shared. “I may never pick up a golf club again. It depends on what shape my body’s in.” Pointing to his head, Day added, “Where it really matters, though, is up here. It’s over when you don’t want to improve anymore.”
He adds that he’s been inspired to work hard by several people, most notably his mother, who provided him the opportunity to succeed. He also recalled a quote from Muhammad Ali that he heard when he was very young: “I’ll sacrifice now and live like a champion later.”
The Australian hasn’t decided what to do about another health concern: competing in the Olympics, which begin two weeks after Baltusrol. Day said he’s undecided whether he will represent Australia in Rio de Janeiro in August because of concerns about the Zika virus. It’s also part of a hectic stretch that sees two majors (the British Open and PGA Championship) held within three weeks. “It’s a tough one, going from trying to represent your country and trying to win a gold medal but also understanding it’s a life decision you have to make,” Day reflected.
Daily tickets for Championship Weekend, Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31, at the 2016 PGA Championship are sold out, but Thursday and Friday rounds are available, although going fast. Up to four juniors age 17 and younger will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Complimentary grounds access is also available for select military personnel and accompanying spouses. Tickets for practice rounds that begin on Monday, July 25 are also available and provide a great opportunity to see the best players in the world close up and in a more relaxed environment.