Five years after Adam Scott’s breakthrough for Australia at the Masters which in turn came nearly eighty years after the event was first played, Australian hopes at Augusta National this year appear to rely on Jason Day converting his outstanding record at Augusta National into his second major championship title and Australia’s second Green Jacket.
Day is playing the event for the 8th time having made the cut on six of those, the only time he did miss the weekend coming on his second appearance in 2012 when forced to withdraw after the opening round.
Today Day spoke to the media and reflected on his first appearance at the Masters in 2011 and just how far he has come since that amazing debut..
“Yeah, it was funny, when I first came here, I think everyone knows this story about how ‑‑ funny how it opens up the story, but I was almost close to quitting the game in 2011 when I first was a rookie coming and playing this event for the first time.
“I met my agent, Bud, and a sports psychologist, and we ended up coming up with a plan of just going out there and having fun. I ended up finishing second. Had a good chance of winning the Tournament, and Charl Schwartzel came home in a flurry and birdied the last four holes.
“And then in 2013 I was very close again. Had the lead with I think three holes left and didn’t quite get it done, but Adam Scott ended up finishing and being the first Australian to win the Masters.
“Going back on it, obviously, I think the preparation is huge coming to an event like this. Being here the last ‑‑ I got here Thursday night, and I’ve been here the last few days and just been really kind of just fine-tuning things and trying to adjust.
Day has played a limited schedule to date in 2018 but when he has played he has done well but despite that he talked about his confidence levels being a little down on what they might have been in previous years although he did not seem too concerned by that aspect.
“This is probably not close to the high that I’ve had before, coming off 2015 and winning late and then obviously coming into an event where I was No. 1 in the world, I think, that was pretty high, but I just ‑‑ the last two events didn’t really pan out the way that I wanted to, especially at Bay Hill and Match Play. Didn’t quite perform the way I wanted to. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
Day will play his first Masters without his long time caddy Colin Swatton but he has the benefit of Swatton’s presence in a coaching role this week and has one of his closest friends (Rika Batibasaga) on the bag.
“Yeah, I think that to a certain degree you take ownership of your actual golf game, going back with Col, he was great for the 10 years that we had, and he is still my coach. He’s here.
“But to a certain degree I think when you have your coach on the bag, you kind of not worry but you kind of think, okay, well, he’s going to say something about this shot, so I better not play that shot, you know, after the round. And it takes a little bit of free will to your game to let things happen.
“I think that I always get back to if it comes down to the line of me trying a shot on the last hole to win the Masters and it ends up failing, I would much rather fail in front of millions instead of failing in front of nobody. And if I can pull it off, then great.
I think that’s what Rika will bring to this week, is a lot of fun and enjoyment. And we’re best buds, so we’ll go out there and enjoy the time. I think he’s going to be nervous walking down the first hole, but he should be fine.”
Day is aware for him to do well he will have to better a very much in form field.
“This is probably the top of what’s going on. There’s just so many good players right now that can (win). Like, obviously, you look at the odds, I mean, Tiger’s probably a favorite right now, and there’s just so many guys that can play well and win. And there’s guys that you wouldn’t even expect that you go, man, I forgot about him, and you know that he’s a great player.
“So there’s just a lot of medium‑large fish chomping at the bit. It’s just how it is.”
Day might be flying under the radar a little given the hot form of several others but his game overall and his Augusta National record suggest he should be a serious consideration.
Picture shows Day and Batibasaga playing a practice round together at an earlier Australian Open – now they are player /caddie