AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jason Day is not ignorant to the challenge ahead.
When queried Monday about whether he thinks it’s ever been as competitive as it is entering this week’s Masters, he was unequivocal.
“No,” Day said. “There’s just so many good players 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.”
The Aussie enters the proceedings at Augusta National as one of several top players making an impact in 2018. Three months ago, Day won the Farmers Insurance Open for his 11th PGA Tour title and first in two years.
He was so satisfied with that performance that he finished T-2 two weeks later at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Day then took more than a month off, and his form has stalled a bit since as he hasn’t posted a top 20 in his last two starts.
But that doesn’t mean Day has gotten complacent in the run up to the Masters. Far from it.
Day, 30, revealed Monday that he recently changed the irons in his bag, putting in a new set of TaylorMade P730 blades
He said he wasn’t happy with how he was hitting it at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play – his last start to date, which saw him finish T-36 when he failed to advance out of pool play.
The ball was launching too high and spinning too much, a lack of control Day knows is problematic at an exacting Augusta National. So, looking for better control of his trajectory and spin, he switched.
The Aussie showed no trepidation that the late change could complicate his performance at the Masters. In fact, it’s the opposite.
“I think with how I was hitting my irons, I just didn’t have the confidence in knowing that … I just couldn’t quite get the gain, the trajectory, and the control that I wanted to,” Day said. “So hopefully with a little bit of a change, that could spark something.”
Another perceived roadblock for Day could be that with Rika Batibasaga as his caddie, the World No. 11 has a Masters rookie on his bag this week.
Again, though, Day isn’t fretting.
For one, Batibasaga – who is subbing in for Luke Reardon, Day’s caddie for the last two events – was on his bag during his Torrey Pines win and his T-2 at Pebble.
Also, Day is still coached by his former longtime caddie, Colin Swatton. Day said Swatton has given them his Augusta National yardage book and that it is a very thorough collection.
So the institutional information is there, and having a friend on the bag for the first time at Augusta may actually free Day up.
“To a certain degree, I think when you have your coach on the bag, you kind of not worry but you kind of think, OK, well, he’s going to say something about this shot, so I better not play that shot, you know, after the round,” Day said.
“Having Rika on the bag this week, I think hopefully that will make things a little bit more light out there for me and a little bit more fun.”
Day’s career at Augusta National began with a flourish when he posted a tie for second and a solo third in two of his first three starts. Since then, in four starts he has remained inside the top 30 every year but has only posted one additional top 10.
The 2015 PGA Championship winner pointed out that in major championship weeks, a lot of it comes down to attitude and emotion – who can handle both the best, as losing control means mental errors start to creep in and compound.
Day admitted he’s heard the noise in recent years about how his first green jacket is imminent.
Heading into the 2018 version, though, he’s fine with all that.
Day appears relaxed and ready with the year’s first major upon us.
“Over the last few years it’s been more of a grind trying to get that win (at Augusta) because a lot of people have come up to me and said: ‘This is your year, this is your year, you’re going to win one.’ And that can add a little bit more pressure,” Day said. “So hopefully I have my good close buddy out there with me and we can make things a little less stressful and go out there and have fun.”