SYDNEY • There is no easing back in for Jason Day when he returns to tour action this week following his extended three-month layoff.
Coming off arguably the greatest season in Australian golf history, the 28-year-old has not played a tournament since September as he took a lengthy break while welcoming the birth of his second child Lucy in November.
But he will head straight back into battle with Jordan Spieth for golf's No. 1 ranking in the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
World No. 1 Spieth and No. 2 Day head the 32-man field comprising winners of USPGA Tour events last year in the US$5.8 million (S$8.3 million) tournament on Maui starting on Thursday.
Joining them are fellow top-10 players Bubba Watson, Ricky Fowler, Dustin Johnson and defending champion Patrick Reed, plus British Open champion Zach Johnson.
The golf world waits to see how 28-year-old Day, who was No. 1 for a total of four weeks late last year, and 22-year-old Spieth fare in backing up their fabulous 2015 seasons.
Both men won five times, with Spieth claiming two Majors (Masters and US Open) to Day's maiden one (PGA Championship).
But Day finished the season stronger, winning four of his last seven tournaments - the Canadian Open, PGA Championship, The Barclays and the BMW Championship - to finish with US$9.4 million in prize money.
He also has a good record in the Tournament of Champions, having surged home with a course record-equalling 62 last year to tie for third after being tied ninth in his other appearance in 2011.
Day and Spieth will be looking for a fast start to the year with a fit-again world No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who has four Major titles, expected to press his claims for a return to No. 1 before the first Major championship showdown of the year at the Masters in April.