Jason Day walked off the 18th green at Augusta National holding his wife’s hand and carrying nine-month old Dash in his right arm. For a man who had come so close to winning his first major title, he looked remarkably calm. When Day later emerged from the scoring area, he walked straight toward fellow Aussie Adam Scott, shaking his hand and then giving him a supportive hug.
“I’m really pulling for Scotty,” Day said as his friend prepared for a playoff against Angel Cabrera. “I know that he’s come so close so many times in majors and he really does deserve it.”
Funny, Scott could say the same about Day if the situation were reversed. Day, 25, finished runner-up at both the 2011 Masters and the ’11 British Open.
On Sunday at the Masters, with three holes to play, Day looked poised to make his own breakthrough after birdieing three consecutive holes (Nos. 13-15) on the back nine.
Standing on the 16th tee with a two-stroke lead, Day turned over a 7-iron and missed the green long and left. He chose to put it, and the ball came up slow through the collar. He left the putt 3 feet short. When he failed to convert the putt for par, Day headed to the 17th tee with a one-stroke lead.
On No. 17, Day was in between clubs on the second shot and went with an 8-iron that came up 1 foot short and into the bunker.
“Trying to hit it 165 yards and hit it 164,” said caddie Colin Swatton.
He went into the 18th hole needing to make birdie and left himself a 16-foot attempt. In the end, the miss didn’t matter as 9 under was needed to make the playoff, and Day’s 2-under 70 put him at 7 under.
“The first thing I’ll say when I see him (next) is I’m proud of him” said Swatton, Day’s coach the last 14 years.
When asked why he continued to smile through the bad shots, Day said it was a coping mechanism.
“I think that if I smile and just try and enjoy myself, when I hit bad shots, I won’t be so disappointed,” he said. “I play better that way.”
Dash, dressed in a darling green-and-white striped Masters shirt and an oversized white Augusta baseball cap, was beaming in his mother’s arms as his father conducted post-round interviews.
“As cliche as it sounds,” Ellie Day said, “having a child really does change things. My heart is broken for (Jason), but you see this kid so happy to see you and it puts things into perspective.
And with that, Ellie and Dash went off through the Augusta clubhouse and on down the road. It wasn’t the ending any of them had hoped for, but it’s easy to believe this close call will go down easier than the last.