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Day Hopes to Place One Spot Higher in 2012 Masters
Jason Day had a 2011 Masters to remember. The then 23-year-old closed with a flourish thanks to birdies on the last two holes Sunday. But he came up two strokes short of winner Charl Schwartzel and shared second with fellow Aussie Adam Scott.
Day's 12-under 276 total over 72 holes established a new all-time record for first-time Masters participants. Were it not Schwartzel's own heroics - the South African birdied the final four holes - it's quite possible that Day would have been in the Butler Cabin at Augusta National Golf Club donning a green jacket.
Day's successful 2011 campaign wasn't defined entirely by his play in the Masters. Though his performance at Congressional was overshadowed by champion Rory McIlroy, who won by eight shots, Day did place second in the U.S. Open. His third-round 65 set him up to contend in the final round, but McIlroy was simply too dominant that week.
On Monday, the Queensland native, who now makes his home in Columbus, Ohio, and has three top-25 finishes in four starts this year on the PGA Tour, told reporters that the secret to his outstanding Masters debut was his focus. "I can't remember any of my rounds last year," he said to laughter. "It's hard to explain, but I really can't remember. I may have short term memory loss.
"I was just so focused on what I needed to do. I think pretty much after I finished the 18th hole, the 72nd hole, that I really was just, wow, I really played great," Day added. "And to birdie the last two holes was just amazing, and there was no other better feeling that I've ever had in my entire life. I've won plenty of tournaments before, but to birdie the last two holes in front of a lot of people around the world and under a lot of pressure, obviously no Australian has ever won the Masters before, so there's a lot of pressure on mine and Adam's shoulders there to win. And just to birdie those last two holes was just mind blowing for me."
Here's what else the personable Day had to tell the media during his Q&A at Augusta National.
MODERATOR: It is my pleasure to introduce Jason Day who really impressed us last year in his debut at the Masters. He carded an 8 under 64 on Friday, which equaled the lowest round for a first time participant. He also tied for the lowest second round in Masters history. Later last summer, he also finished second behind Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open. Jason, welcome back. Would you please make an opening comment about your preparations for the Masters, and then we'll open it up to questions.
JASON DAY: Yeah, I got in yesterday. I had a week off. I know that I need to at least have a week off before every major. Obviously it's mentally and physically grueling. That's just how majors are. And, you know, I just had a good session yesterday. Played nine holes this morning; out early, first group off 10 at 8:00. The game feels really, really good right now. It was a little flat during the start of my year. But, you know, I feel like the game's kind of coming around, which is nice. A lot of good memories as I was playing the back nine, a lot of good memories from last year. Just kind of reliving those was pretty neat. Yeah, just looking forward to the week and I'm just going to try to enjoy myself.
Q. Last year when you came in here, you said to us, you know, not that you're here as a tourist, but you wanted to take it all in; you wanted to enjoy yourself, your first Masters. How is it different this year? Do you feel that this year your preparation will be different, just because you've already gone through that?
JASON DAY: Yeah, obviously last year I just wanted to soak it in. Every time I come back, I want to soak it in every single time. It's a special place. I had a lot of fun last year. I'm looking forward to this year. I've got to focus on this tournament, and I've just been really chipping and putting a lot around the greens, just trying to get a feel for them. Because there's really no place that you can prepare for the - like with your short game, prepare like you're chipping here and putting here. Obviously it's kind of different greens, they are going to be quick and firm, and you've just got to try to get yourself in the right frame of mind. I've been pretty good mentally lately, so I'm very happy where I am, and just looking forward to it.
Q. As you know, the talk has largely been about Tiger and Phil and Rory coming in here, and yet those were not the top three guys who finished last year; Charl, yourself, and Adam. What's your response to all of the hysteria about those big three?
JASON DAY: I think it's good for the game of golf. I think it's going to be great for the Masters this year. Obviously with Tiger just winning recently and with how Rory has been playing this year; obviously Phil, as well, he's been playing great. There's been a bunch of guys this year that have really stepped up and played great. You know, I think there's going to be a lot of hype. I haven't seen - obviously the tee times are not out yet, but it's going to be pretty exciting this year I think. Hopefully we can have another exciting finish like we did last year. But I kind of like flying under the radar. It's kind of nice. Not many people are paying attention to me, which is nice.
I can just go and do my work and get out and just go about my business and not really worry about any other distractions that obviously can happen here. It's just how majors are and obviously how the Masters is. You just want to try to minimize most of the distractions and try to keep it as a normal week as possible, like any other week. But I'm just having a lot of fun right now.
Q. It sound like Tiger was an influence and inspiration for you. Obviously you want to win, but would you like to see him have that fairy tale and get another green jacket if you can't?
JASON DAY: If Tiger is playing great, it's good for the game of golf. Any player like Rory or Phil or Tiger that goes ahead, that wins this week, it would be great for the game of golf I believe. But I'm going to do my best to try to stop them, but we'll see how it goes at the end of the week.
Q. What's the most important aspect to a player's game to find success here at Augusta National? Is it driving, is it iron play, is it putting?
JASON DAY: I think it's a lot about second shots here. Obviously you have to be pretty sharp with your short game. But if you can place the ball on the green in the right spot, you definitely - you can walk off at the end of the week, if you placed them right, walk off at the end of the week saying the greens were slow, if you can leave yourself under the hole. If you short-side yourself and leave yourself downhill putts or downhill chips, you're going to struggle. I believe that it's more about the second shots on this course, and that's what I'm trying to focus on right now.
Q. You talked about working so much on your chipping, pitching around the greens. How important is the practice area here, and how much does that help in terms of acclimating to what you are going to see on the course?
JASON DAY: The two chipping greens that we have are pretty much exactly like we have out on the golf course. There's some undulation to one of the greens, which is nice. You can hit some nice pitch shots into that. Just try and visualize some of the shots that you're going to have; like 15 - sorry, 13, if it's a back left pin there, you can hit some shots up the hill. There's a number of shots that you can visualize and imagine around those greens that you are going to have on the course, which is nice. I'm going to try and do as much chipping and putting as I can obviously Wednesday, which is pretty much what the greens are going to be like.
I'm going to try and visualize, just trying to see the ball with my putts - it's hard to explain, going slower, if I phrase it like that. Because obviously the greens around here can be very, very quick; so if I can visualize the ball going a lot slower, hopefully that will slow my putts down and just give myself a little bit more breathing room when I stand over a long putt.
Q. A player doesn't win; he wins once in 30 months, and yet, in a lot of people's minds, he's a favorite to win this tournament. How appropriate is that, in your mind? How sound is that thinking?
JASON DAY: Who are you talking about? Tiger? (Laughter.) Obviously Tiger's had his troubles but he certainly has been working hard. From talking to him just recently, it just seems like - you know, obviously he has other priorities, it seems like before when he was really dominating, golf was the only thing that he was focusing on on the golf course obviously. The only thing he wanted to do was win and dominate.
Obviously with what's happened in the past over the last few years kind of got a way from him a little bit I think, and you can see that competitive spirit coming back to Tiger, especially after the win at Bay Hill. And obviously talking to him on the range at the WGC Cadillac Championship on Saturday, I could tell that there was else that he wanted to do than win and play well. I wasn't surprised. I said to my caddie, Cole, I said, he's got to win pretty soon. I talked to him on the range on Saturday. Surprising enough, he won a couple of weeks later.
Q. Why did you say that to Cole?
JASON DAY: You can just tell when someone wants it enough. If you have the talent and you work hard enough, sooner or later, it's going to come. Tiger has dominated the game of golf for a long, long time, so it was just only a matter of time. And I could just see it in his eyes that he was going to do it, and that's just how it is. It was like when I was watching Rory last year at the U.S. Open; I just knew he was going to win, because it just looked different. It looked like - for Rory last year, it looked like he was playing a Wednesday comp against the best players in the world, which was just amazing. He just looked so comfortable. It just seemed like Tiger, he was comfortable, but he had that look in his eye that he was going to do it pretty soon, and it happened.
Q. Last year was your first Masters. What two or three pieces of advice would you give a guy who is playing here for the first time?
JASON DAY: Go ahead and ask a lot of questions to a lot of the older guys that have played and won here. You can go around to all of the past champions and pick their brains; just what they have done in the past. If you can somehow get a practice round with them, that would be probably the best thing you can do. But if you can't do that, just keep asking questions. Just go through 18 holes. Like I remember talking to Nick Faldo before I played the Masters last year and asking advice of him and then walking the course with some other players that have played the course before, and just asking where they would hit shots on certain holes, and that certainly helped a lot. And just pretty much enjoy yourself. It's hard not to enjoy yourself when you're here, but just have fun and don't let it get to you if you're playing bad.
Q. You mentioned how you're in the zone, you've got the blinders on, you're so focused, but was there a moment where you had to pinch yourself and realized your dream had come to fruition?
JASON DAY: I can't remember any of my rounds last year. It's hard to explain, but I really can't remember. I may have short-term memory loss. (Laughter.) I was just so focused on what I needed to do. I think pretty much after I finished the 18th hole, the 72nd hole, that I really was just, wow, I really played great. And to birdie the last two holes was just amazing, and there was no other better feeling that I've ever had in my entire life. I've won plenty of tournaments before, but to birdie the last two holes in front of a lot of people around the world and under a lot of pressure, obviously no Australian has ever won the Masters before, so there's a lot of pressure on mine and Adam's shoulders there to win. And just to birdie those last two holes was just mind blowing for me.
Q. Can you describe that pressure of being the first Australian to win and what it would mean for the country, and what is that pressure like?
JASON DAY: You know, I think obviously this is - for me, this is the Holy Grail to win this tournament. I would love to win this tournament one day. I do believe that an Australian will win it soon. A lot of Australian - in Australian sports, we have conquered a lot of, you know, different sporting events around the world. This is probably one of the last few that we would like to get to. But I would be very, very happy if one of the Australians this week won. Obviously I think that will kind of ease the pressure off our shoulders, and we can just go and play instead of worrying about being the first person to win. I think this week, I've just got to focus on my own game and not worry about anything else, not worry about the outcome of what could happen if I do win. If I have a chance to win, I've just got to focus on what I need to do out there.
Q. And for the country, too. What would it mean for the country, from a national . . .
JASON DAY: I have no idea. Maybe a parade? That would be fantastic. (Laughter.) I don't think that's going to go that far. But it's going to be big. There have been a lot of Australians come close obviously over the years. So I'm not too sure. We'll see; hopefully this week.
Q. This may be a difficult question, given your short-term memory loss, but can you give us some idea of what it's like trying to close out at a place like this in a tournament like this, and what goes through your head and your hands, your muscles, your stomach?
JASON DAY: There's so many different thoughts and negative thoughts, positive thoughts going through your head. If you can do it; if I can do it; you're talking to yourself nonstop, nonstop, nonstop. It's so funny, because I've worked so hard to get to where I am, and I've always wanted to play in this tournament and had a chance to obviously win the Tournament last year. Just the amount of emotions that were going through my body, through my head, it was an unbelievable feeling. I wish I could put it in a bottle and keep it forever, but obviously just looking back, as I walk the course and looking back on those memories like I did - I mean I hit my putt on 17 like I did last year and had a look at my putt on 18. Almost makes you want to cry, because you were so close, but, you know, it's one of the most happiest moments I've ever had on the golf course by far.
Q. Since the 30 month lack of wins that Tom was mentioning earlier, so many great players have stepped up; guys like Stricker all the way down to guys your age. Does Tiger still have the intimidation factor? Do you guys -he has not won every time on Sunday. Does he still have that mojo where you guys are thinking about him and not focusing on yourself - maybe not in general, but do you think others are still intimidated by him?
JASON DAY: It just depends. If he has momentum rolling on Sunday like he used to, he's a guy that can roll off four or five birdies on the back nine and do it pretty easily. If he has the putter rolling, it makes it very simple for him. And that's the hard thing. For us, we have to try and focus on what we need to do out there. It's like anything. If you're out there driving a car, you don't want to focus on the person driving next to you and see what they are doing. You have to focus on what you need to do and you have to drive your own car.
I think that's what a lot of the guys five, six, seven years ago were caught up in what he was doing and not themselves. And that's how they made poor decisions or mental errors and that's how Tiger came back a lot, just by guys making a lot of mistakes and him birdieing a lot of the holes coming in. It's Tiger: 14 majors, he can get that back in a heartbeat, especially around here with the crowds. And they are on his side, and if he's playing good, you'll definitely hear it. And that's kind of chilling if you do hear that.
Q. Is Rory in that light? He's only 22.
JASON DAY: He's very young, very good golfer. It's only a matter of time. Seems like he's been out here for a while, but he's very young in his professional career, but he's done a lot. You know, it's kind of different. I believe that if he keeps heading in the right direction, it will get like that, definitely, because he hits it very, very solid and he can make the crowd, you know, scream.
Q. We hear a lot that winning, learning to win, is a process.
JASON DAY: Yes.
Q. After the two second places last year in majors, the tremendous streak without a bogey at the U.S. Open, what did you learn most last year that will allow you to win a major this year?
JASON DAY: Need to drive it a little bit better I think. (Smiling.) Drive it a little bit better and hit my irons a little closer and hole some putts. That's usually a good formula for winning I think. You know, I think just getting the job done, and when I say getting the job done, doesn't matter how you're hitting it. You just have to play to your strength. You just have to be disciplined in yourself to understand that it's not about how good it looks. It's just sometimes you have to get it in and just come back and fight another day if you haven't quite got your game there.
Just trying to put yourself in contention. I was talking to someone about this the other day. It's a very thin line between winning a tournament and making the cut, because you know, a few bounces go your way, the momentum starts rolling your way, you hole a few putts, you put yourself in contention. And then when you're in contention, you know, you only have to just stick around, stick around, stick around for Sunday, and then maybe hole a couple birdie putts coming down the home stretch and you might win.
Whereas, if you're going the other way and you have a few bad bounces and you're missing a few putts and you're just not on that week, that's just how it is. I think I have learnt a lot over the past few years that I've been on - this is my fifth year on the PGA Tour. Seems like I've been out here for a long time now. I feel like I've learnt a lot. I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable playing out here and playing against the best players in the world. I just have to just get over that hurdle and just put myself into contention, and hopefully I can win one soon.
Q. More so than any other event, guys sort of focus on this, they come up for scouting trips to Augusta to learn to play the golf course. Is there a danger of over preparing for this particular week?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I think so. Because if you treat it like it's the only tournament that matters to you, you're putting so much more pressure on your shoulders to a point where if you don't perform and you don't play, then you get down on yourself and you miss the cut and you go home early. I always say to my coach, I said, "Although this is my favorite tournament to play in, I have to treat it like a normal tournament that I'm playing in." I have to just get in and just have the same preparation as I always do and just treat it like a normal tournament, because I don't want to add extra pressure on myself, and that's obviously a distraction that I don't want to have here.
Q. Just on what you were saying before, would it be fair to say that when you played with Kaymer at Hazeltine, you figured out how to play a major and how to win a major?
JASON DAY: Yeah, playing with Martin that day, obviously I saw a lot of good shots and a lot of bad shots that he hit. He was struggling a little bit with the left to right winds and hitting his drives way right. He saved himself a lot with his short game. Like I said, he was in contention, and he just stuck around, stuck around, stuck around, and then everyone started falling apart behind him. He holed a nice putt on the last hole and just won the event.
That's the thing. You don't have to do much on Sunday. You just have to keep your head in there, and if you have a bad start, then don't worry about it, just keep playing. That's kind of why I had a very, very decent year last year. I'm very happy with how the year went. Obviously I didn't win, but I had a lot of consistent finishes. I had ten Top 10s for the year and 12 top-10s around the world. That's a very, very solid year. I think last year I just was a little impatient on Sunday, and that's just why I didn't kind of finish it off.
Q. Would it be also fair to say that the two majors you finished second in, the guys, unlike Kaymer, the guys that won it, didn't implode; Charl here, and Rory.
JASON DAY: Yeah, and that's - you like to see that. Obviously you like to see a guy win the tournament. I think it's just young guys, they get the feel of this. Like I said, Rory had a different look to him, and Charl birdieing the last four holes here was just amazing. You just wish that kind of happens to you this year. We'll see how it goes.
Q. Have you had a chance to run into Bryan McPherson, fellow Australian?
JASON DAY: I have, yes. I think we are playing the Par 3 Contest together. I talked to him a couple of times this week.
Q. What are his emotions like? Kid in a candy store?
JASON DAY: Yeah, I think he's enjoying himself. I don't know him too much, but he seems very confident within himself and I think he said he was going to turn professional after this event, I believe. So I haven't really seen his game, how good his game is. If he's got his confidence like he has now and he's got a decent game, he's going to do well. So we'll see how it goes.
Q. Is there any other tournament you play around the world where you come to a place like Augusta, you talked about the Holy Grail, the people, the Patrons, the security people, the kindness factor, is it just different here?
JASON DAY: There's no other place like it, really isn't. The amount of tournaments I've played around the world, there's just nothing, nothing like it. This is my favorite week of the year every single year. I've only played it twice, and it really is my favorite week of the year. I really do enjoy coming back, and seeing the Members and seeing the Patrons and just playing the course. I've watched this tournament from a kid until now watching TV; there's just so much history and tradition here, it's a fun place to be at.
MODERATOR: What's your afternoon like.
JASON DAY: Nothing. I've done all my hard work this morning and just going to go back and relax with my wife. She's obviously pregnant as most of these guys know, so we are just going to relax.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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