Is Jason Day struggling to find the fairway?

Jason Day is the world's number one golfer, but there's still an area of his game he must improve.

Mon, 1 Aug, 12:00 AM

Top ranked golfer, Jason Day, has continued his hot form from last year and has had an excellent 2016 to date. The Australian's cumulative score when combining the last four majors is -9, way ahead of next best, Jordan Spieth, at +3, and there is no denying he is currently the world's best golfer. However, Day's driving accuracy may be a chink in his long game armour and stopping him from reaching even greater heights.

Golf is a game of percentages and, while Day certainly has the distance when driving, his accuracy with the 1-wood is hard to rely upon. The Australian's driving accuracy percentage (DAP) at 51.9% for 2016 ranks him 184th, hardly world-class. Compared to Dustin Johnson at 56.9% (142), Jordan Spieth at 58.4% (120) and Rory Mcllroy at 61.8% (67), it appears Day is giving his direct rivals roughly a 5- 10% edge they will gladly take.

The Australian recently finished a close second to American, Jimmy Walker, at the US PGA Championship. Despite a thrilling finale to the fourth round - Day eagled the final hole, meaning Walker had to sink a three-foot putt on the 18th to clinch the title - the world number 1's driving was far from perfect at Baltusrol. With the middle of the fairway eluding him on several occasions, could Day have made up an extra 1 shot, and retained his title, had his placement off the tee been just a little more controlled? Potentially.

Day's DAP has fallen away in 2016, reaching a 6-year low, and has trended downwards ever since peaking at about 58% across 2013-14. This means he is hitting the fairway roughly 6% less of the time than he was a few years ago. Let's consider his DAP in light of his overall game.

The Australian has always been a power hitter, ranked 15th for driving distance in 2016, and will let his big dog eat on certain holes where others wouldn't. Take for instance, a long par 5 with a skinny fairway. While most players would hit with an iron as they have no hope of reaching green in two, Day may risk a driver because one good hit could put him in range. Having always traded off accuracy for power, this justifies his lowly DAP rankings across the period, peaking at 131th in 2014.

However, Day's average driving distance has more or less stayed the same, reaching a high in 2015 before falling away again this year. Hence, his recent decline in DAP is harder to explain. To some extent, it's likely that as the world number 1's overall game has improved, namely Day's approach shots and putting, he has chosen to take more calculated risks off the tee which simply aren't captured in driving distance statistics. Even so, Day's tactical decisions don't tell the whole story behind this decline and his driving accuracy remains a rare area of his game that requires improvement.

Tim Alexander

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