As the dominant world No.1, Day will tee off in his first competitive round at Royal Troon on Thursday as tournament favourite in what shapes as the most open Open in years.
But it is the nagging disappointment of not saluting last year – when all the focus was on Jordan Spieth’s grand slam tilt – rather than the confidence garnered from his stunning surge to the summit in the 12 months since that is fuelling Day’s title drive.
Day held a share of the third-round lead and felt in control at St Andrews.
But he never got going on Sunday and ultimately missed a playoff – eventually won by American Zach Johnson – after leaving a 10-metre birdie putt on the 72nd hole a revolution short.
The pain remains.
“Coming so close last year is definitely a motivational factor,” Day said overnight, Australian time.
Every legend to have played the game – from Old Tom Morris in 1861 to Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Watson and Woods – has their name on golf’s oldest and most prestigious major championship trophy.
Now Australia’s reigning US PGA Champion wants his named etched on it too, alongside his countrymen and idols Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle.
“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 lived and played the game,” Day said.
“Just to be able to be called the Champion Golfer of the Year would be fantastic.
“So I’m very excited to be here and looking forward to a nice, challenging week.”
While Spieth was the hunted last year, after opening the season with Ben Hogan-like Masters and US Open triumphs, Day is undoubtedly the player to beat at Troon following a Tiger-like seven wins from 18 starts since his St Andrews despair.
“It was kind of, I guess, the start of my run where everything kind of changed my world,” said Day of his incredible ride since.
Success six days later at the Canadian Open, followed a week after with his major breakthrough at Whistling Straits and then five more wins in the US has the 28-year-old leading Australia’s 11-strong push at Troon.
But Day has a big support cast, headed by former runner-up and four-time top-tenner Adam Scott and Marc Leishman, who also went desperately close to winning in 2015.
Steven Bowditch, Matt Jones, Rod Pampling, Greg Chalmers, Scott Hend, Marcus Fraser, Nick Cullen and Nate Holman round out Australia’s representation.
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