CHARLESTOWN, R.I. -- Jason Day returns home to play in the Australian Open this week for the first time since 2013.
The former No. 1-ranked player in the world explained why in a wide-ranging Q&A with ESPN.com recently at Shelter Harbor Golf Club, where he was doing promotional work for TaylorMade.
Now that golf is essentially a year-round sport, how has that changed the process of testing new equipment, for instance?
It makes it quite difficult. It is an all-year-round sport. After the tour ends for us, there's usually a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup. You play that, and then pretty much a week later -- you get a week off -- and then the tour starts back up.
I don't play a lot in the fall, so that's usually when I go ahead and start testing certain things. Most of the time when they release a driver, it's usually early January. We get to hit the drivers now, or hit the irons or hit the woods -- whatever we're trying to test -- but we don't really get to put the new clubs in until January, or when they're going to release them.
What are the biggest things you're looking for when trying out new clubs?
I'll only change if I can see an improvement. And it seems like I've changed pretty much every single year, which has been great. I'm just trying to get a lot straighter with my shots. I think the distance has slightly increased -- it went down a little bit this year, but I was kind of always fighting a back issue or something like that, so that kind of put me back to where I was trying to swing a little bit slower, just to try and make sure I didn't hurt myself. But now the back is fine, everything is progressing nicely.
You mentioned your back issues. Have you had to adjust your training to compensate for that?
Yeah, I don't work out as much as I used to. The workouts are a lot different. I get less massage than I used to -- when I was on the road I used to get massage all the time just because my back was constantly sore, and then I found out that once I stopped getting massage my back actually got better. I don't know the ins and outs of stuff like that, but it just seemed to get better.
I lost a lot of leg mass with my old trainer, and I've started to put that back into my golf swing now -- so try to get very big strong legs, a stable core, and then a loose, smaller upper body. For the better part of two years I was actually the opposite -- I started losing mass, and getting a really big upper body. Having that imbalance, of having a lot of speed through the hips and being too heavy up top, put a lot of tension on my lower back. Everything's starting to feel good.
Your home on tour is a bus, which travels from course to course. What went into that decision, and how do you think it helps you?
Back in 2009, we started getting little dogs, me and my wife. We got married on Oct. 3, 2009, and we always played with the idea that there've been buses out there on the PGA Tour. There were still at the time about six or seven buses out there, and we decided to get one. I put three, four months of studying into buses, and it took me about three, four months to actually pull the trigger on one. I found one with a good deal, ended up getting it. We've been in it -- not that one, we've got a newer one now -- but we've been in a bus for seven years now.
Being able to have your own bed, your own pillow, your own kitchen, showers and TV and everything -- it's just a moving house. It's like a New York studio apartment on wheels, and you can just pick up and go wherever. There's a queen-plus bed in the back, two bunk beds in the front, then you've got a pullout queen sofa in the front and then a jackknifed bed that pulls out to sleep two more. You've got a full kitchen, full living room. And a full bath in the back with washer and dryer.
It's very convenient and comfortable. For most major championships, except for the British Open, I'm on site, and I'm only like a minute away from the actual course itself. When we have weather delays, I can actually just go back to the bus and relax instead of just sitting around in the clubhouse wondering what's going on. To have your own stuff, and feel like you're at home, it's really good. I love that feeling. Hotels can wear on me sometimes. So that's why I did it.
You have a couple of small children. How do they like the bus?
Yeah, they like it -- they play on the bunk beds all the time. The good thing is that we're always together. It's nice to have the family on the road with me. Dash is getting to a certain age now where he's coming up to kindergarten, but we'll probably wait until first grade to put him in school. So I don't know if they're going to be coming out on the road as much. But the years that I had with them being on the road with me was very, very special, because in my line of work I'm very blessed to be able to take my family on the road with me.
Do you ever drive the bus?
I had in the past. I did a little bit of driving -- it was probably weird seeing a 25-year-old kid behind the wheel of a 45-foot bus. But now I have a driver. I try to eliminate all the stress in my life, and driving a bus is very stressful. So I fly to the [tournament] location, jump in a car, my bus driver's already there, he's set it up, he leaves before I get there. And then when I'm out playing on Sunday, the bus will leave, either Sunday or Monday. But usually if I'm playing two weeks in a row, the bus leaves Sunday while I'm playing on the golf course, we jump on the plane, go on to the next site, and the bus is already there.
Speaking of travel, you play mostly events in the U.S., but you're playing the Australian Open this year. What has gone into your decision to stay mostly in the U.S., but also, why the decision to return to Australia this year?
I find it hard, especially with my family, I find it hard to be away from them for a long time. I play in the U.S. because I have a PGA Tour card. I could play in Europe, but it's just a big stretch flying. Flying can be very bad for the body. Jet lag is bad for trying to compete and play. I focus solely on the PGA Tour. And I'm going back to Australia [because] it's been four years since I've been back there, so I think it's time for me to get back there and play some golf.
I was scheduled the last three years to go back, but I got injured twice and had a baby, so that kind of ruined the plans of going back. But I'll be going back this year, and I'm excited about that.
You didn't participate in the Olympics in 2016, but is competing in 2020 something you're thinking about?
Oh yeah, definitely. The hard thing about the Olympics that we had down in Brazil -- obviously there was a lot of concern about Zika. There were a lot of questions up in the air, and the recommendations that we got from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), they were just recommendations. It wasn't like, OK, statistically this is exactly what the facts are. At that time we didn't really know how long it'd stay in your system if you did contract the Zika virus. And you could pass that on to your wife, which would ultimately pass it on to your child. That was a heavy concern for me because we're still thinking of having more kids.
But with regards to going to Tokyo, if I'm able to make the team I'll definitely go. I think that'd be a lot of fun.
What's your best advice for a first-time major winner? There have been so many recently.
I think just enjoy it. The hardest thing is enjoy it, but try to take your time, try to slow everything down as much as possible. For me, when I first won my major championship, it feels like everything went really, really quick. I was at the heavy stretch of the season -- I won the Canadian Open, went and won the PGA, and then I won two playoff events straight after that. Everything came one after the other, and everything felt very quick. Everyone wanted a piece of your time. Trying to slow everything down is key, but also enjoying that you are a major champion, and you've done the work to get there, and you need to enjoy that, recognize that, and know that you've done the work to do it.
What's the scariest shot in golf? What course? What hole?
Probably 17 at the Players [Championship], 12 at Augusta. Any sort of finishing hole with water on it, that's tight, and you've got the lead, that's pretty tough. But usually those two par-3s. When you're playing the 17th hole at the Players, there's usually 20,000 people around that hole, and they're not quiet, you know what I mean? They're pretty loud.
At Augusta, it's the complete opposite. It's just dead quiet; you can't hear a thing out there. And the good thing about Augusta is that you know the history about the 12th hole. That's quite a difficult hole.
There's more and more talk about stats in sports, golf included. Is that something you pay a lot of attention to?
Yeah, I do. I pay attention to stats a lot. I have a team meeting at the end of every year, and we kind of go over things to see how the year went. And then I talk to Col (Colin Swatton), who's my caddy and coach, and we go over stats and try to slowly improve on those. (Editor's note: Swatton is no longer Day's caddie, but he's still his swing coach.)
There's three categories that I'm always trying to improve in -- it's driving, wedges and putting. If I can do that -- if I can really hit those well -- I know I'll succeed and win.