Jason Day is stressing patience as he returns to the Masters, after the devastating experience of watching from home last year.
Day’s world ranking had plummeted well outside the top 150 in the world in 2022 and the exemptions into major championships from his 2015 PGA Championship win had finished.
So, he watched the Masters from the couch. The only Major he competed in in 2022 was the PGA, where he has a lifetime exemption as a past champion.
“I was watching… I didn’t watch too much of it, but I think it was more out of the sheer disappointment that I wasn’t able to compete just because, you know, the last 11 years, I was playing at this tournament,” Day said Monday at Augusta National during his pre-tournament press conference.
“And then I think mentally I was more disappointed in myself not being able to compete here and play in the major, especially, because my world ranking ballooned out so far. And it hurt my confidence a lot, not being able to play in the Majors. And so have been trying to work my way back in the top 50 and back up the world rankings, as well, but to be able to play these events.”
Day is among five Australians in the field this week, joining reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith, 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott, amateur Harrison Crowe and Min Woo Lee.
Although Smith won The Open at St Andrews last year – one of five wins in 2022 – Day is probably the leading hope for the Australians.
Smith and Scott have not registered any strong results this year, while Lee finished tied sixth at the recent Players Championship and Crowe is making his Augusta debut. Scott hasn’t posted a top-10 on the PGA Tour in 2023, while Smith has only one top-five result from three LIV golf starts.
Day, meanwhile, has six top-10s this season, five of which have come already in 2023. Among those five, Day posted four straight – PGA Tour stops in San Diego, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill event. He then finished top five at the WGC–Dell Match Play having lost his quarter-finals match.
Day also owns a glittering record around Augusta, including a tie for second on debut in 2011 and hare of third in 2013 when countryman Scott won. Day also finished tied fifth behind Tiger Woods in 2019.
But 35-year-old Day downplayed his chances of finally donning the green jacket this week, asserting that a swing rebuild under coach Chris Como is still a work in progress.
“You have to be able to work it both ways here,” he said. “I hit it left-to-right with my driver mostly, and my irons I can work both ways, which is nice. But we’ll see how it goes. I’ll talk to you Sunday, and I’ll be able to tell if I did a good job or a bad job.
“With the current changes that I’m working on, hopefully that improves [my world] ranking. If I can get back to my putting the way it was, in 2015, 2016, that will definitely yield more wins for sure. I’ve just got to be patient with it.”
While Day waits for those changes to pay off, he knows it’s a tall order to battle the world’s top three golfers at the Majors – defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, world No.2 Rory McIlroy and No.3 Jon Rahm.
“Oh, they are playing some good golf,” Day said. “It’s actually really exciting to see. I played against Scottie in the Match Play and I know that he’s a good, solid putter, but if he was top 10 in putting, he’d dominate for a good, long while. He’s got a really good head on his shoulders.
“Rory has been a very dominant force in the game of golf for a very long time, and Jon is such a solid player. His Top 10s to how many events he’s played is unbelievable, the percentage. So to get back to that, I think it feels like a long way, but I know it’s not that far. It’s hard to be patient but just small little things happen along the way, and things get gradually better and better.
“Then all of the sudden you’re back there. Last year I was 175th in the world, and I’m back to 35 in the world, which is nice.”
Day believes his new swing can prolong his career. He even said that it could be more reliable under the gun than when he ascended to world No.1 in 2015 and 2016 with eight PGA Tour wins.
“With the current changes that I’m working on, hopefully that improves the ranking there,” he said.
“And if I can kind of get back to my putting the way it was in 2015, 2016, that will definitely yield more wins for sure. I’ve just got to be patient with it.”
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