“When someone asked Rory [McIlroy] about being No 1, he said he never really thought about it all and never really got stressed out, but I’ve been one of those people that hold on to a little bit more stress than others,” admitted Day as he faced the world’s media, having already played two full practice rounds at Royal Troon after arriving in Ayrshire on Saturday.
“You can look at it two ways. I think the stress of being No 1 is more of a motivating factor for me because I don’t want to lose it. It makes sure that I stick to my process and do all the hard work that I can to try and stay there as long as I can.
“The stress factor also comes through having to do things like a lot more media, a lot more time with sponsors that you didn’t have to do before becoming world No 1, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s great and I can live with it as it’s good stress.”
After finishing fourth – his best effort in this event so far – behind Zach Johnson at St Andrews 12 months ago, Day won the Canadian Open a week later, then chalked up his major breakthrough in the US PGA Championship before winning two of the PGA Tour Play-Off events in lifting the FedEx Cup.
Three more victories have fallen to him this season, including the WGC Match Play and the Players Championship. “I guess this event was the start of my run where everything kind of changed my world,” he recalled. “Coming so close last year was definitely a motivational factor in that I would love to one day hold the Claret Jug and be able to put my name down in history with the best that have ever played the game. So I’m excited to be here and looking forward to a nice, challenging week.”
Day was bitterly disappointed that he let a winning position slip in his last event, having been pipped at the post by Dustin Johnson in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a fortnight ago. He’ll try to use his friendship with 14-time major winner Tiger Woods to ensure he isn’t affected by that setback this week.
“When I talk to him, it’s about how tough mentally he was,” said Day, who will start his title bid on Thursday in the company of Masters champion Danny Willett and Rickie Fowler, last year’s Scottish Open winner. “When he didn’t have his best stuff, he would just find a way to get it done. His gameplan was just to get it in the hole and if he was trying to catch someone, he would cut into the lead to show there was a presence there. Not everything that I take from him works for me, but the mental strength that he had, the will to try and get the job done, is probably the biggest thing.”