Date: April 13, 2013
Author: Martin Blake / Golf Australia

Aussie quartet raise Masters hopes

Australians will wake tomorrow with a familiar sense of anticipation. It is Masters week, and their countrymen are out to break the infamous hoodoo at Augusta National. Moreover, there is a chance it could happen. Jason Day&aposs brilliant second-round 68, the low round of the day in swirly winds and tricky conditions, was one thing, the Queenslander surging to his first-ever lead in a major at the end of a round at six-under-par. But first-round leader Marc Leishman has not gone anywhere yet; the Victorian scrapped a 73 to be in a share of second place at five-under. Adam Scott (-3) and John Senden (-2) complete a perfect quartet of Australians in the top 15 on the leaderboard. The excitement is palpable. Channel 10s switchboard copped a tirade when the television coverage was cut off this morning as Day went to the 18th hole, cradling the lead. The network later apologised, saying that it had contractual commitments to other programs. It added that the final two days will be shown in their entirety. Day hits off tomorrow at 4.45am Australian eastern time in the final group with the 53-year-old Fred Couples, and Scott is off at 4.15 am. Ten&aposs coverage begins at 5am and the network would be ecstatic at the shape of the leaderboard. Tiger Woods is right there as well, just three shots back and poised. Of course no Australian has ever won the Masters, which was first played in 1934. Greg Norman was runner-up three times, and Jack Newton, Bruce Crampton, Jim Ferrier, Day and Scott have all finished second in the quest for the green jacket. Whether the Australians are teasing remains to be seen, for Australian golf fans have become conditioned to something bad happening at Augusta after the promise of something good. In 2011 Day, Scott and Geoff Ogilvy all popped on to the top of the leaderboard on the final day, only to be denied by an unprecedented run of four consecutive birdies to close from South Africa&aposs Charl Schwartzel. Even with three in the running, none would come through. Day, 25, told the media that a player needed to be philosophical about the Australian hoodoo. “It&aposs all how you look at it,&apos&apos he said. “If you look at it as pressure, you&aposre going to worry about it more. If you look at it as a challenge and an opportunity to be the first and stay positive with it, you know, it only motivates you to play well . “So I&aposve just got to really not think about it at all. I really need to, like I said, stay committed to the game plan, stay aggressive to my target, and really aim small, miss small out there. Just not really worry about anything else but hitting the shot in front of me.” The Queenslander would be a worthy first Australian winner of the Masters; his life story has not been picked up by his countrymen as it should be, for he rarely plays here. He was threatening to run off the rails as a teenager, and his Filipino mother Dening was his only support until he met Col Swattan, his mentor, coach and caddie, at the Kooralbyn International School near the Gold Coast. Day had huge talent and he struck up a friendship with Swattan, who was running the golf academy at Kooralbyn. A roommate loaned a Tiger Woods book to Day, and he was hooked. He won a world junior title in America, and quickly turned professional. Much water has flowed under the bridge. Day won his first PGA Tour event in America in 2010 and was runner-up at the Masters and the US Open in 2011, but his 2012 season was impacted by the fact he and his wife, Ellie, had their first child. At the 2012 Masters a nasty ankle injury forced him to withdraw. This year he came in with low external expectations, and not much was mentioned of his chances. But he began with a 70 on Thursday and he rattled home six birdies today in his 68. Perhaps this is his time. “I think if I can go out there and commit to the game plan that me and Col have obviously worked on over the last year, two years, going into this weekend, hopefully I can be there come Sunday,” Day said. “It would be really, really nice. Obviously there&aposs a lot of pressure on my shoulders, being from Australia and no Australian has ever won the event. They have been very, very close, but I&aposve just got to try to get that out of my mind and just plug away.” Coverage resumes Sunday at 5.00am until 9.00am (NETWORK TEN)