Jason Day’s wife, Ellie, got the response she was looking for in the third round of the 81st Masters after threatening to slap the world No.3 in the face as he looked like drowning in a sea of negativity, writes Martin Dempster.
The Australian, who’d just scraped into the final 36 holes after rounds of 74 and 76, birdied four holes in a row from the 12th as he hauled himself back to two-over following a 69 in the easiest conditions of the week so far at Augusta National.
“My wife was kind of ready to slap me in the face because I was so negative with myself,” said Day on being asked about his thoughts as he found himself ten shots off the lead at the halfway stage. “She was trying to pick me up and give me a good boost, which she did.”
The 29-year-old’s poor start left him needing to rip up the record books in his bid to claim the green jacket on this occasion. Not since Jack Burke, who was eight shots off the pace when he won in 1956, has anyone managed to recover so spectacularly to prevail in the season’s opening major.
“If the lead stays around where it’s at (four-under when he finished), I’ve got to shoot a really good one tomorrow, but anything can happen on a Sunday at Augusta,” said Day. “I’ve just got to put everything together and give it a good shot.”
With 53 players making the cut, he played with a marker – club member Jeff Knox – and was relieved to avoid the embarrassment of being outscored by the man who did exactly that when performing the same role for Rory McIlroy in 2014. Although he closed with a birdie on the 18th on this occasion, two-time former Georgia amateur champion Knox could only manage an approximate 77.
“I heard that he beat Rory,” Day said of his playing partner. “He said he was nervous on the first tee and in my head I’m like, ‘I’m kind of nervous because I don’t want to let my marker beat me’.”
Day rode an emotional roller-coaster coming into this event as his mother, Dening, had surgery for lung cancer. This effort showed he’s slowly but surely getting his mind back on his job. “I think that I can actually play golf again,” he said.