Date: April 03, 2018
Author: Martin Blake

Day makes changes for Masters week


Jason Day has a new set of irons in his bag as well as a new caddie for Augusta National this week as he prepares for his eighth shot at the Masters.

While his form has been strong at the start of 2018 – a win and a second already – the Australian was not happy with his ball-striking at the World Golf Championship matchplay and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with too much height and too much spin. Hence the change of irons to TaylorMade P730 blades which he hopes will give him better proximity to the hole this week.

Caddie Rika Batibasaga is a close friend who replaces another friend, Luke Reardon on the bag as part of a sharing arrangement after Day moved on from longtime caddie Col Swatton last year. Swatton still coaches Day, and he has handed his yardage books over to Day for Batibasaga to employ this week.

Day said he hoped the change of bagman would make his week “a bit lighter’’, although Batibasaga is on Masters debut in the white overalls. “He’s gonna be nervous walking down the first hole, but he’ll be fine,’’ he said of his close friend.

Day was runner-up on debut in the Masters in 2011 and was in the lead deep into the final day in 2013 as well. It is his greatest desire in golf to win the green jacket, having been inspired as a young player by Tiger Woods’ dominant performance at Augusta in 1997.

Woods’ return to prominence after back surgery and almost 10 major-less years is the talking point this week, although Day, who is a close friend of the former world No. 1 player, is focused on his own performance. A reporter put it to him that the likes of him and current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson would benefit from the extra focus upon Woods, to which he agreed.

“You know, that’s fine with us,’’ he said. “That’s fine with me. I can just focus on what I need to do to try and win this tournament. Tiger is Tiger but the biggest thing with me is I can’t beat myself. I think on my good day I’ve got a good chance of beating him. I honestly believe that. There’s 10, 20 other guys out there that honestly believe they can beat Tiger as well. You’ve got to have that self-belief. You can’t come into an event saying ‘Tiger’s going to win. I’m playing for second place’.’’

Day, 30, has already been in Augusta for a few days’ practising as it is one of his favorite places. He has great memories of his youth; the breakfasts at golf clubs in Masters week, and even earlier, waking up before dawn to watch. “(I remember) turning the turn dial and making sure the antennae are right to get the best picture! You walk through the gates here, everyone understands how special this place is. As a kid watching it unfold in 1997 with Tiger and how he played, that’s what sparked my push forward into playing more competitive golf. I absolutely love this event.’’

He said it was the same every year now that he is a regular in the field. “This is a tournament I always focus to win every single year. I’m striving towards hopefully one day slipping that green jacket on and being able to call myself a Masters champion. If I think about it every night it gives me chills with that actual feeling. It always gets me focused and ready to come into an event like this.’’

Day said he understood how other players who had not won the Masters felt this week, so intent upon living the dream. “I think about it as well, but we know that we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. We think about it at night. It’s hard not to think about it. You sleep thinking about winning the green jacket, winning the Masters, playing great golf in front of millions of fans watching. It’s hard to get it out of your head sometimes.

“This is my 11th year on the PGA Tour, and I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now. I understand that Thursday’s first shot is a long way from Sunday’s last shot. There’s a lot of golf in between and it’s about managing yourself the best you can, trying not to take yourself out of the tournament, and if you give yourself a shot that’s the glory that comes with it and you’re in the history books.’’