Day seeks Byron Nelson repeat with Paris Olympics on his mind

Defending champion Jason Day of Australia signs autographs before the US PGA Tour Byron Nelson tournament (Tim Heitman)
Defending champion Jason Day of Australia signs autographs before the US PGA Tour Byron Nelson tournament (Tim Heitman)

Australian Jason Day returns this week to the scene of his drought-busting victory in last year's US PGA Tour Byron Nelson, hoping another solid performance in the Texas tournament will further bolster his Paris Olympics dream.

Day's victory in the 2023 Byron Nelson was his first US PGA Tour title in more than five years. It came 13 years after he lifted his first tour trophy in the same event.

He returns to TPC Craig Ranch in suburban Dallas not only with a repeat on his mind but with an eye on a first-ever Olympic campaign.

"If I get the opportunity, I'm 100% going," Day, currently the top-ranked Australian and in position for Paris, said Wednesday as he prepared for his Byron Nelson title defense.

The 35-year-old said he felt a twinge of regret that he opted out of the Rio Games in 2016 -- when he won three US tour titles but decided not to go to the Olympics because of concerns over the Zika virus.

"Had one of those spots and at the time we were having kids, and then obviously there was that scare, so I was kind of like a little bit freaked out about that," said Day, who didn't qualify to play the Tokyo Games.

"I wish I would've gone, but if I get the opportunity to go and represent the country, my country, Australia and get to go to Paris, that would be an absolute blast, an honor to do that."

Day will play the first two rounds alongside local favorite Jordan Spieth, the highest-ranked player in the field at 20th in the world.

South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon, who won the first two editions of the event to be held at TPC Craig Ranch, is also in the line-up.

Day, who has three top-10 finishes in 10 starts this year, said he didn't spend any time celebrating his victory last year as he was already focusing on tournaments to come and adjusting to a new phase in his golf career.

"I think right before last year when I was playing some nice golf I was kind of playing golf for the wrong reasons, I thought," Day said.

"I feel like looking in the future and understanding that golf is more of a marathon and it's a long career if you want it to be -- playing from more of a position of love and passion of the game is, I think, far healthier to play from than having a chip on your shoulder.

"I'm just trying to find that balance in amongst professional life and personal life, business and everything that comes along with being a professional golfer," Day said.

"I've been out here 17 years now. I feel like I'm still learning."