AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jason Day goes into the Masters coming off a big win. Trouble is, that was six weeks ago.
Day said his left thumb was ailing even as he won the Match Play Championship to close out the West Coast Swing. He withdrew from Doral. He withdrew from Bay Hill. He hasn’t played a competitive round since that 23-hole victory in Arizona.
And that was match play.
The 26-year-old Australian last competed in a stroke-play event on Feb. 8, when he failed to qualify for the final round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
“Not really a concern,” Day said Monday. “I think I just need to tighten up a few things, just kind of get a little sharper with my tee shots. I think I’ll be good.”
Day said the rest was a good tonic for his thumb, and he had a cortisone injection a week ago in Ohio. He feels no pain, though he will be taping it as a precaution, and he has been icing the thumb at night.
“It’s more frustrating for me because just coming off the win at the Match Play, I was playing some pretty good golf,” he said. “It was trending in the right direction going into Doral and the Florida Swing there. Just something so small, it’s so frustrating, because everything else is fine. But you need your hands to grip the golf club, and every time it hurt when I swung the golf club. I would kind of flinch at impact, and you just can’t compete against the best players in the world doing that.”
Day is among the best players at the Masters.
Even though the Match Play win was only the second of his PGA Tour career, he was a runner-up at the Masters in his debut in 2011, and last year he finished alone in third. In 2012, Day had to withdraw because of an ankle injury.
IKE RAMIFICATIONS: It’s bad enough that Augusta National had to remove the famous Eisenhower Tree from the 17th fairway because of damage from an ice storm.
That might have been the hardest decision, but the easiest to execute.
The loss of Ike’s tree led to other changes that the club felt needed to be made. And this is a major that spares no expense at trying to do everything just right.
Augusta National had already mailed out some 2,000 media guides, with a glossy cover, color photos and 420 pages of information. A week or so after the tree came down, the club sent the media guide back to the printer to update the mention on page 28 of the tree. Everything was changed to past tense, and it mentioned how it was taken down in February 2014 after an historic ice storm.
The club didn’t stop there.
It removed all the calendars on sale in the merchandise shop because they had photos of the Eisenhower Tree, redoing the calendars with a different image of the 17th hole. It also changed the yardage books and spectator guides that are on sale this week to reflect that the tree is no more.
And the daily pairing sheets? Those have a course guide on the back, and the template was changed to show the 17th hole without the tree.
MAGNOLIA LANE: For any Masters rookie, one highlight is the drive down Magnolia Lane toward the Augusta National clubhouse.
Matt Jones, the last man to qualify for the Masters by winning the Shell Houston Open on Sunday, will have to wait. He only arrived at Augusta late Sunday night, and he really didn’t know exactly where he was supposed to go. Instead, he tagged along with good friend Kevin Stadler.
“He had to go to the caddie area, so I followed him to the right, so I never drove down. I’ll get to do that tomorrow,” Jones said. “I just walked into the clubhouse here. It’s awkward when you don’t know where you’re going because every tour event, you walk in and know exactly what you’re doing. I’m not quite sure where to go or what doors I can go in or out of.”
But at least he’s here, giving Australia seven players at the Masters.
WHO’S NO. 1?: Four players could claim No. 1 in the world Sunday night after the Masters.
Tiger Woods has been No. 1 for just over a year, but he won’t be playing the first major of the year while he recovers from back surgery. That has left the door open for Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson or Jason Day, none of whom has ever been No. 1.
Scott has had a chance his last two tournaments to reach No. 1, the best one coming at Bay Hill until he squandered a three-shot lead in the final round. The defending Masters champion would need to finish in a two-way tie for third at the Masters.
Stenson, of Sweden, is No. 3 and would need at least a two-way tie for second at the Masters to be No. 1.
Day has to win to go to No. 1, and then only if Scott doesn’t finish alone in second.
“My goal is obviously to be able to get to No. 1 one day and to have a green jacket, and I can do that in one week. That’s exciting stuff for me,” Day said. “Because I know that there’s been a lot of hard work and dedication that I’ve put into the game for many, many years, and it could all pay off in one week.”