Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Los Angeles — Jason Day starts 2017 at the US PGA Tour tournament of champions on Thursday ranked No1 in the world, and is hoping his rehab of a back injury keeps him at the top.

Speaking on Tuesday at Kapalua, Hawaii, where the elite tournament tees off, Day said he was "cautiously optimistic" he could avoid a repeat of his injury-plagued 2016.

"I’m just trying to get stuck back into the process, trying to get better," said Day, who said he spent the three months since back pain forced him out of the Tour Championship in September working to recover.

"I feel better about my body, my game, [and] my swing," Day said. "I feel better mentally than I did the second half of last year, so I’m hoping for very good things this year."

Day said he has shortened his backswing to alleviate pressure on his back. He hopes the new approach will see him end a seven-month title drought.

Day said he would stop worrying about being thought a slow player and return to the methodical ways that helped him put together a sparkling run of seven wins in 17 starts.

That included three US PGA titles in 2016 — but none after the Players Championship in May.

Day admitted he let concerns about his pace of play pull him out of his normal game plan.

"I wasn’t as deliberate going into a golf shot. Gathering the information, I wasn’t as deliberate," he said. "Everyone wants to speed up the game. That’s a big subject in golf.

"You don’t want to be classed as a slower guy, but thinking about it now, when I was playing and competing really well I forgot about that stuff," he said.

"I just have to make sure I am deliberate but still respect other players." While the US PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season officially got under way in October, this week’s event marks a return to action for many top golfers.

Jordan Spieth was coming off a stellar 2015 that lifted him to No1 in the world when he won the trophy in 2016. The 23-year-old Texan returns in 2017 ranked fifth in the world.

World No3 Dustin Johnson, who won the US Open on his way to US PGA Player of the Year honours, is a strong contender, having lifted the trophy at Kapalua in 2013.

And sixth-ranked Japanese Hideki Matsuyama arrives in Hawaii on a hot streak that includes four victories in late 2016, including the Japan Open and World Golf Championships HSBC Champions in China in October, the Taiheiyo Masters in November and the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge in December.

AFP

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