AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jason Day said there are days when he wakes up feeling like he’s 50. Or 70. Or 18 (rarely I suppose). Sometimes, he said, it takes him 10 minutes just to get out of bed.
“It just comes and goes,” he said. “That’s just how it is.”
Day sounds like the oldest 31-year-old in the history of man, as sturdy as the Tin Man. Never mind what Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee thinks about his toughness, though. His wife, Ellie, will do.
“It’s the Masters,” she told him as he moped around their RV on Thursday night. “You need to suck it up.”
Six birdies, offset by a lone bogey, en route to a 67 on Friday for a share of the lead halfway through the year’s first major will do.
Especially considering that a day earlier Day was sprawled out on the Augusta National turf getting treatment on his back after aggravating it on the practice putting green … when he bent over to kiss his daughter Lucy.
“I’ve been battling back issues pretty much this whole year,” said the Aussie, who last month withdrew after just six holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of his back and noted this tweak happened in a different area of his back. “This is not my first time where my back has gone out, so I kind of know the protocol of trying to get myself back into at least game mode to get out there and play.”
Therapy. Ice. Blowing into a balloon (yes, a balloon).
They helped Day’s back. And his focus.
“100 percent,” he said. “Especially at a place like this. A major, you know, Augusta National, the Masters, everything that goes on this week, how big it is, and the distraction of wanting to win this tournament so bad, and sometimes it’s almost a blessing in disguise with regards to it just brings down the expectation of going out there and trying too hard.”
Lord knows he’s had enough practice when it comes to injuries.
Last year, Day suffered a shoulder stinger at Bay Hill and two months later again at the Players, though it didn’t cost him any time.
Not so much in 2016, when that balky back forced him to withdraw from the final round of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick after eight holes. Two weeks later, he bailed on the Tour Championship midway through the second round because of the same injury.
In 2015, he was felled by vertigo during the third round of the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, where at one point he dropped to the ground, before he went on to finish in a tie for ninth.
The year before, Day missed two months and thought his career might be over after sustaining a left thumb injury, the result of when his club had smacked the roots of a tree while playing a shot on the 13th hole at Augusta National. Still, he tied for 20th that week.
In 2012, he didn’t even make it through the Masters, an ankle injury leading him to withdraw during the second round.
Then there’s this year’s tournament.
Day had been receiving epidural shots to his back and got another one before the event started. The back felt a lot better. Until it didn’t.
Then Day needed to snap out of it.
“She was trying to get me ready for [Friday], and it ultimately did,” Day said of his wife’s message to him. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve got to somehow change my mind set coming into today.’ I could miss the cut [Friday] and go home, and I’ve got the excuse of my back.
“No one’s expecting me to go out and play well because I’ve got a back issue.”
Beware the injured golfer. Especially when he can suck it up and just play.