Top-ranked golfer Day out to reverse Riviera fortunes

Rebecca BRYAN
Jason Day of Australia reacts to his tee shot on the 18th hole during the Final Round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 12, 2017 in Pebble Beach, California (AFP Photo/Harry How)

Pacific Palisades (United States) (AFP) - Jason Day says he can't afford to fret about threats to his world number one ranking but must focus on reversing his fortunes at Riviera Country Club to keep his pursuers at bay.

Day missed the cut in his first two starts at Riviera, the classic course tucked into the canyons of Pacific Palisades west of Los Angeles, and he finished tied for 62nd in his most recent start in 2012.

"Looking at that, you probably shouldn't tee it up," Day admitted Tuesday as he prepared for the USPGA Tour event that begins on Thursday.

Day, whose most recent victory was back at the Players Championship last May, says the key to returning to the winner's circle is to focus on the process -- both in tuning up his game and in keeping up with the exercises that keep his balky back in good shape.

He has the same mind-set when it comes to his world number one ranking -- which either third-ranked Dustin Johnson or Japan's world number five Hideki Matsuyama could seize with a win this week should Day produce the kind of lowly finish he's endured at Riviera in the past.

"You can't really focus on staying number one," Day said. "The more you focus on the actual target itself, the more you attach yourself to it, you make mental errors out there, you get more frustrated, you do silly things on the golf course that you shouldn't be doing.

"I need to focus on hitting the shot in front of me, going to the next shot and hitting that and trying to beat everyone else because I know that as long as I win, it will take care of it."

A disastrous start to the third round at Pebble Beach last week saw Day plunge out of contention, although he rebounded to claim a share of fifth place in the weather-disrupted tournament.

Day insisted that lapse wouldn't prey on his mind.

"I forget things pretty quickly," he said. "I think I'll be OK."

Day noted that two of his three victories in 2016 came on courses where he hadn't previously performed well -- at Bay Hill and at TPC Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship.

"There's a lot of change that needs to happen for me to play well here, but once again, I think I'm very positive about how things are progressing in my game and looking forward to the week," Day said as he looked ahead to the tournament featuring eight of the world's top 10 players.

"I've just got to keep my head down and keep playing and keep fighting on forward."