Jason Day looks to regain form at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The photo will always serve as a fond memory, yet a sad reminder. There is Jason Day with his wife, Ellie, and two children with Arnold Palmer in a golf cart at the Bay Hill Club.

It is the last time the golf icon presided over his own tournament, and Day will always cherish the fact that he was the last player to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the man's presence.

"I get to have that memory of actually standing with him, talking to him and being his champion," Day said. "Those are the memories you don't forget. Having the celebratory drink with him, I felt like I was drinking a whole bottle of Ketel One, because that's obviously his favorite thing.

"And I was on the Golf Channel afterward and I felt absolutely hammered. I was hoping it would turn out something decent. But we had a special moment at his place."

The victory was the first of two in a row for Day in 2016, and a week later he ascended to No. 1 in the world, a position he held until recently when Dustin Johnson supplanted him.

The sobering reality now is that Day is struggling to regain that form through a spate of illness and injury that has seen him lack consistency.

"It has been a slow start," said Day, who shot 2-under-par 70 in blustery conditions Thursday during the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "But I think last year you guys were asking the same thing right around this time and I ended up winning this week and Match Play as well. So it would be nice to get on a roll like that.

"Overall, I think it's coming along. It's been a funny year. I really haven't clipped it together, haven't had any momentum going my way. This is obviously a very important stretch coming up, just to see how the state of my game is."

It is difficult to gather any semblance of form with the difficulties Day, 29, has had in recent months.

After his wins at Bay Hill and the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship last year, Day added a victory at the Players Championship and four other top-five finishes, including a second-place showing to Jimmy Walker at the PGA Championship.

But since then, Day has spent more time on the sideline than on the golf course. He withdrew at both the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship in the final round of the events that ended the 2016 season, citing back issues.

He then didn't play again the rest of the year, skipping a return to Australia for the World Cup as well as the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Even in 2017, Day has played sparingly, making just his fifth start this week. He tied for 12th at the Tournament of Champions, missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, tied for fifth at Pebble Beach and then tied for 64th at the Genesis Open -- the week Johnson won and took over the top spot.

Day hasn't played since, a span of four weeks that saw him miss the WGC-Mexico Championship because of illness.

"I've got to go out there and just kind of get in my own little world and forget about everything else," Day said. "Forget about all the stuff in the past and what people are going to think if you don't play well, because one week can really change, and if I play poorly over the next two weeks and then win Augusta, the first part of the year is forgotten and you're the Masters champion.

"So you always have to stay positive, even though I haven't gotten off to a great start. Stay positive, keep moving forward and forget about everything else."

Day put himself in good position Thursday, making three birdies and a bogey on what turned out to be a difficult day for scoring. After the morning wave, only Emiliano Grillo had gone lower with a 67.

It was just one round. But it was a step toward getting ready for the Masters in three weeks.

"I just don't quite have enough confidence in my swing right now," Day said. "I feel like my putting's right there, but it's still lacking. It's kind of all the parts of my game are just behind a little bit.

"But I'm trying my best, so I just have to keep working hard and trying to get back to that winning form. There's a ton of good golfers that are trying to get back to that spot, and I'm trying to do the same. I just have to try my best and forget about what has happened in the past and try to keep moving forward."