Jason Day's father died when he was 12.

He became an alcoholic within a year.

Day's mother took out a second mortgage when he was 14 to send him to boarding school at a golf academy one day's drive away from his home in Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia.

In the middle of nowhere, he could work on his golf game and stay away from the demons - and influences - that plagued him back home.

There, a roommate loaned Day, then 14 or 15, a book about Tiger Woods.

"I was in boarding school and I really wasn't doing much as a junior," Day said Sunday after finishing third in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. "In the back of the book were the scores (Woods) shot at different ages in tournaments he won.

"I was sitting there one day, like, man, why's he shooting 68 at age 14? Sixty-eights? 66? This is just nuts.

"Then I was like, 'What do I need to do?' "

Day started waking up at 5 a.m. to practice, working on his game 32 1/2 hours per week outside of school. Maybe 80 percent of his focus was his short game.

It's from that perspective that one should consider the conversation Day had with members of his support team at the end of last year.

"The whole team came up to me and said, 'You're not working as hard as you would be. You need to work harder,'" he said. "The motivation wasn't there."

Day was a new father; his wife Ellie gave birth to their first son, Dash, in July. He was happier than ever just to stay home.

"It was obviously one of the best years I've had off course, just because of Dash," Day said. "On the course, I was trying to find excuses to blame on, to try and find, instead of putting the blame on myself."

Between the baby, injuries - Day hurt his foot and back last year - and a lack of motivation, he grew to hate practicing.

"It's a slippery slope when you find yourself not wanting to play competitive golf as much as you want to just relax," he said. "And once it happens you start disliking practice.

"When you don't practice, it becomes poor play.

"The biggest thing is to get yourself over that hill by practicing and training yourself to become a lot more motivated.

"Once the results come, then the motivation starts.

"Then that's when you start going back up."

Day's ascension didn't take long.

The 25-year-old has finished in the top 10 in three of his four events this season. He tied for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open and was sixth in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Sunday morning at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, the Columbus, Ohio, resident lost to future champion Matt Kuchar, 4 and 3, in the semifinal.

Facing blustery, cold winds, Day had four bogeys and a double bogey.

"Pars are really good scores with the conditions the way they are right now," Kuchar said afterward.

In the afternoon, the wind was just as nasty. Day topped Match Play legend Ian Poulter 1 up in the third-place match.

Day won Holes 7-9 to lead by one - and said after he couldn't even remember when it happened, after playing 72 holes in two days.

"We were laughing and giggling out there for the first nine, then once we turned the corner on 10 everything got real serious," he said.

Day took a three-hole lead by parring Nos. 12 and 14, but Poulter won 16 and 17.

On the final hole, Day made a 9-foot putt to seal the match, and continue his hot, motivated, start to the season.

"That's just golf - It goes up and down," he said. "Hopefully you'll go up and down, but slowly go up while you're doing that.

"You're going to have good years, you're going to have bad years.

"The bad years, you learn the most. The good years, you try to roll with them."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.