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Stressed-out Jason Day could use some sleep before defending his PGA Championship

Jason Day is sleep-deprived, fighting a bug and had never played Baltusrol until Wednesday. Not the ideal recipe for concocting a major title defense.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Jason Day will enter the defense of his PGA Championship with a lack of sleep, hardly any practice on a course he has never played and — as appears to be the norm for the oft-injured and ill Aussie — fighting some sort of bug.

Add the pressure of holding on to golf’s top ranking in the face of a hard-charging Dustin Johnson, plus an emergency trip to the hospital Tuesday night when his wife Ellie had an allergic reaction, and Day expects to take the field with Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson as one tense guy.

"I’ve never been more stressed as being No. 1 in the world," Day, attired in Tiger Woods' signature Sunday red and black, conceded during a press conference on the eve of Thursday’s opening round of the final major on the men’s 2016 calendar.

"I think there's a little bit of expectation obviously on my shoulders, that I've got off to a great start this year," said Day, who set the major scoring record of 20-under at last year’s PGA (matched by Henrik Stenson at the British Open). "You’ve got to come out and fire on all cylinders and get yourself up the leaderboard and show people that you're there and you're ready to win."

One particular source of tension could come to an end this week, with DJ able to surpass Day in the world rankings. There are two ways that could happen.

As for the internal and external pressures involved with a major title defense, how the exhausted father of two contagious young kids will go back-to-back on an unfamiliar golf course remains to be seen.

"I haven’t played a practice round, I haven't seen the course, I don’t know what it looks like," a realistic Day said before heading out for his first 18 holes on the Springfield, N.J. track. "I’m not coming into this week expecting a lot."

Almost as an obligatory tagline one would anticipate from any protege of Tiger, Day added that, of course, he was "expecting to win but like I'm not really going, 'All right, you need to go out and force things straightaway.'"

Day, who has dealt with a slew of illnesses and injuries throughout his career, including a severe case of vertigo during the 2015 U.S. Open, comes into the week with seven wins in the last calendar year. That’s four more than Jordan Spieth and he’s five-up on Johnson and Adam Scott.

Day, Mickelson and Scott also have the most top-five finishes in major championships (seven) since 2011. McIlroy and Spieth come in at six apiece.

So on a macro scale, it’s small wonder that the defending champ is one of the heavy favorites to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time. But on a basic, everyday life level, Day is in for a battle — with the best in the world, as well as himself.

"I've got to really try and manage my patience out there, because I have very little patience right now," said Day, who picked something up from son Dash and daughter Lucy. "Just for some reason, every time I get a little bit under the weather, I've got zero patience."

Then there’s the hectic PGA Tour schedule necessitated by cramming the Olympics into an already crowded year (including the Ryder Cup) that has cramped Day’s practice time. It has also given him less downtime than he believes optimal to be tournament-ready — though he did manage to fit in some video game crowing on Monday.

"A lot of  people underestimate rest, especially sleeping and recovery time," he explained. "Rest is huge because if you're sleep-deprived, that can definitely run into the mental side of the game and can definitely hurt your game if you're playing tournament golf."

Hanging out in the ER through the wee hours until Ellie was pronounced fine likely did not help.

"She was kind of freaking out in the back of the bus, which is understandable because she got all red. I’ve been in that situation before when I first ate seafood; I started swelling up," Day recounted. "So I was kind of calm about it and she’s like freaking out in the back of the bus and she’s like ‘Call 911, call 911.’"

Which Day did after failing to scrounge up an antihistamine to bring down the swelling.

"We were there until two o'clock or something like that, so I'm kind of running on E right now," he noted.

As for his limited practice, Golf Channel analysts wondered about Day’s atypical decision to delay his first foray around Baltusrol until the week of the event.

"It certainly raises some eyebrows," Brandel Chamblee said Tuesday night on the network's Live From broadcast.

Chamblee’s colleague Frank Nobilo was similarly skeptical.

"It is out of character for Jason Day. Habitually he comes in almost the Friday before [a major week]. In the end he’s opting for Plan B," said Nobilo. "The break is a necessity, but it’s almost a Hail Mary pass at the same time."

That was apparently always the plan, given the jam-packed schedule, even if it’s not the way Day usually prepares for a major. His normal routine is to play nine holes each day between Friday and Wednesday before major week "to really kind of tweak and really understand what needs to go into trying to win the tournament," Day told GC’s Charlie Rymer recently.

Rio, though.

"It’s hard," Day said. "The Olympics is kind of messing with the schedule and usually you get a little bit more time to go and play."