Date: April 10, 2019
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussies firing as Masters beckons


It's all systems go for the Australian contingent at the Masters this week.

Speaking on Inside The Ropes, Australian journalist Evin Priest said the Aussie quartet had all turned up at Augusta National early, in form, with high hopes and, in Jason Day's case, fit.

Priest said Day, twice a podium finisher and never worse than 28th in the seven times he's completed the Masters, had put behind him the back injury that troubled him in March.

He said the Queenslander, who arrived last Friday, had already played a couple of practice rounds and was honing his short game with long-time coach Col Swatton – all with negligible signs of back pain.

"It's not too serious, not like 2016 when he missed FedEx Cup playoff events … more just wear and tear," Priest said.

"I don't know how much diligence he paid to his rehab and physiotherapy on the west coast (of the United States) in six weeks over there (in February and March), so by time he got to the Florida swing with that wear and tear, his back had caved in a little bit.

"But now he's back on track with his rehab, and his attention to detail with nutrition and soft tissue stuff, so I think it's going to be a lot better from here on in."

Priest said he'd been impressed by the new working relationship between Day and his long-time mentor, coach and caddie Col Swatton.

The pair parted ways as player and caddie in late 2017, but Priest said they still clearly had a great dynamic as player and coach.

"It's fantastic. I think if you're able to take a step back and see that person intermittently every few weeks, you start to pick up on things you wouldn't have noticed," Priest said.

"If anything, the fact that col has stepped away from caddie duties … he defintely sees little nuances in Jason's swing and is able to correct them quite quickly and he wouldn't necessarily have noticed them while he was a caddie on the PGA Tour.

"There was a bit of pain when they first split … but it's worked out best in the long run. `Swatto' has really embraced the coaching role, never seen someone so passionate about coaching."

Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champ, flew up from his Bahamas base last week to do some scouting. He has since played a practice round with his father, Phil, and is working with new caddie John Limanti.

"It's been a nice stretch of preparation; I've had some rest and worked plenty on my game since the Players," Scott said.

"I did a trip up here for a couple days last week and it definitely got me excited for Masters.

"Now we're here and I feel I could not have done anything more."

Scott has had five top-five results and another three top 10s at the majors since breaking through at Augusta.

His most recent chance was a third placing at the US PGA Championship in Augusta last year, when he played in the final group alongside winner Brooks Koepka and had the lead during the back nine.

Australian World Cup duo Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith aren't the punters' picks among the Aussies, but Priest says both appear in slashing form.

"They're flushing it. Leish has played two nine-hole practice rounds and just seems like he feels right at home now," Priest said of the Victorian.

"And Smithy's the same. There's less shock about being here and more focus on what they have to do and just being ready come Thursday, I'd say."

Smith, another Queenslander, was best among the Aussies last year in a tie for fifth and had a putt on the last hole for birdie which would have given him a share of the lowest back nine recorded at Augusta National.

Leishman is twice a top-10 finisher at the Masters, including his ninth last year, and has been in consistent form this PGA Tour season since his victory in Malaysia in October.