Jason Day made light work of two-time major winner Collin Morikawa on Friday to progress to the round of 16 at the WGC Match Play, while Day’s fellow Australian Lucas Herbert also advanced and guaranteed a date with Rory McIlroy.

Day, a two-time champion of the WGC Match Play event, swept aside Morikawa, 4 and 3. After the second hole, Day led the entire match.

“I think that if Collin holed some more putts we’d be going like some extra holes,” Day said. “It was nice to be able to take advantage of some of my putts on 2 and 9. Some good quality iron shots out there again, which was great. Some of the shots that I didn’t feel comfortable over, I felt like I handled those pretty nicely.”

After five years of struggles on the course, Day has four top-10s already this calendar year and is rounding into form nicely. He has locked up a return to the Masters, which he was not eligible for last year. Day won’t put a target on where he expects to end a five-year win drought, rather he’s focussing on the process.

“It’s just so hard to put an exact date on when I’m going to break through,” the former world No.1 said after his Morikawa match win. “Every day I wake up just trying to improve and learn and get better as a player. Whether it comes early or later down the road, it doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to improve my game. It’s more about the journey and enjoying that process, and then the wins hopefully get in the way.”

Day, who won six times in 17 starts while rocketing to world No.1 in 2015 and 2016, said he didn’t foreshadow the slump he was in from late 2018 until late 2022. But he’s glad it happened.

“I think you hear guys saying they’re taking ownership of their game … I never really understood that until the last two years,” he said. “I’m not 21 anymore and I don’t recover the same way, so I have to be smart. Then learning about the golf swing has been interesting.

“When I got to No. 1 in the world back in 2015, I enjoyed the journey getting there, but when I got there, I didn’t know how I got there. I had a team of people around me that would just take care of everything. So they just kept the horse running, and I [just thought], Okay, I’m going to run in a straight line. I think this time around I’m doing it slightly different. At least I’ll kind of have essentially an understanding of how things are and where they’re going.”

Day, who won all three of his group matches, will face off against Matt Kuchar Saturday morning in the first round of knockout stages.

Day’s countryman Herbert also went through his group with a perfect record, grabbing his third pool victory Friday by defeating Ben Griffin 3 and 1. He will square off against four-time major winner and 2015 WGC Match Play champion, McIlroy on Saturday.

“I’m sure that won’t be an easy match. I’m sure,” Herbert said. “Look, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve only played with Rory once. I played with him on Saturday in Phoenix. Probably the biggest crowd you’ll ever play with Rory in the same group with, I would imagine so. It’s going to be fun. He’s a great player. If he turns up with his A game I think I’m in a lot of trouble. But if he doesn’t, I’m looking for the fight.”

More to come…