Jason Day wanted to be the first Australian to win the Masters Tournament.
Day, 29, had his chances in 2011 and 2013, but Adam Scott beat him to the green jacket in 2013.
“But it’s OK, because I would like to be the second player to win from Australia,” said Day, who enters the Masters as the No. 3-ranked player in the world after being No. 1 last year.
Something special comes over Day when he reaches Augusta National Golf Club, which makes him want to win for reasons other than national pride.
“I don’t know, it’s just the whole feeling about that place,” he said. “You can put history and tradition aside and you just play there, it’s kind of like a spiritual feeling for golfers. It’s a spiritual place for us to be able to go and just feel it. It’s kind of surreal in a way. If you’re there by yourself or with your caddie on a quiet day, when no one’s around, it’s just so peaceful.”
“So that’s kind of like golfing heaven for us – or it is for me. If I ever died and I ended up going up and they put me on a golf course, it would be Augusta National.”
After the way he played in two of his first three years (a tie for second in 2011 and a third-place finish in 2013), a victory seemed almost inevitable. That turned into a problem in terms of expectations.
“I’ve got to understand that the first few years, I just enjoyed myself,” he said. “I had a lot of fun. It’s something I’ve always wanted to play in as a young kid, and I enjoy coming and I enjoy being on the grounds and playing the tournament. And then as time went on, everyone would keep on asking me about, you know, when are you going to win it and how are you going to win it and all that stuff. I guess I thought about it and just, ‘OK, I’ve got to kind of force it this year,’ and that’s when I started missing stuff and making mistakes and mental errors. I kind of shot myself out of tournaments.”
By putting too much pressure on himself, he couldn’t get back into contention. He tied for 10th last year.
“It was just maybe looking too much into a shot, overplaying a shot or making things too complicated where they should be simple, and just trying way too hard. … I know there’s certain steps I need to take to read putts or get information, or how to execute a golf shot. I’ve just got to through that normal pattern and try and do it that way rather than missing a step or trying mentally too hard.”
Like many golfers in the field, Day hasn’t discovered what is the best way for him to prepare for the Masters – or the other three majors – in terms of pre-tournament scheduling.
“This is the quandary I have, because I sit there and I go, ‘OK, I like to have the week off to prepare.’ Same for the British Open, same for the U.S. Open. And I played good at the U.S. Open moreso than any other event major event. And then the PGA comes around and I play the WGC the week before and then I go and win the PGA (in 2015). So maybe I need to play the week before, I don’t know. It’s all about the attitude. It really is. When it comes to major golf, I think it’s the attitude and the emotion that you bring into it. If you come in with the right attitude, yeah, you most likely will do well.”
He does take the week off before the Masters, but there is still the question of when he should arrive in Augusta. Because of his mother’s surgery for lung cancer in late March, Day withdrew during the first round of the Match Play Championship and didn’t play the next week in Houston, the prelude to the Masters.
“Obviously, I’m still nervous because we’re still waiting to see … if it has spread or not,” Day said on a conference call March 27. “From there, we have to kind of come up with a game plan whether to go chemo – a form of chemo radiation – or something else.”
This year, he planned to come in Friday to begin his Masters preparations.
“My mom told me not to worry about it,” Day said on the call. “It’s hard to do that. It’s easy to say … but it’s really, really difficult. So currently I’m scheduled to play Augusta … but if things don’t come back the way we want them, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”