“You’re coming home, Bubba!”
That’s how Augusta National famously greeted Jason Day when he burst on the scene as the surprise runner-up to Jordan Spieth at the Masters last April.
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Eighteen months after his first green jacket, Day is just as confident that he will be battling for a spot at next year’s Masters.
With a new sponsor and a roster of sponsors the size of his 6-foot-8 frame, Day has been putting up some eye-popping numbers on the course in the first nine events of his PGA Tour season.
Early on, it looked like he was going to run away with the Southland Open on Sunday. Day, who shot an eight-under 63 on the front nine on Sunday at La Quinta Country Club to wrap up a five-stroke victory, has gone in the past five months from winning the Houston Open and finishing 10th at the U.S. Open to breaking John Daly’s one-year winless streak with a Phoenix Open victory and coming home empty at Augusta.
“I’m never happy with things. As long as I’m not good, I’m not satisfied,” Day said. “If I do win, like I’ve done the last two years, it’s going to be the last one. If I don’t win, it’s going to be the fifth or sixth in the last six years and I won the last one and I didn’t win the next two. It’s the biggest difference, being able to handle it. I know why I failed at every tournament. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, and I’m able to take my time and look at the game properly now.”
As is customary in golf, Day talked about his golf after the tournament. Only, this time the focus was on a more difficult subject — his wife Ellie.
The couple were married Feb. 24 in Doha, Qatar, just nine days after Day tied for sixth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Ellie underwent surgery that November on a minimally invasive cervical disc herniation. Three months later, she gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl named Rani.
“She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Day said. “She’s just been very patient. She’s never gone through anything. I’ve had a lot of surgeries, and she’s never gone through it and nothing much has come of it. For me, she’s been a huge role model. That’s all I could ask for.”
Day wants to bring Ellie and Rani to the opening round of the Masters for their first impressions.
Day has played for five years at Augusta and, despite his well-documented problems, has shown strong mental fortitude. He missed the cut in his first two starts at Augusta, but has made two appearances in the year’s final major and advanced to the weekend in each of them. His ranking is No. 7 in the world.
But the environment isn’t as relaxed as it once was.
Last year, Nick Faldo, with help from his fellow golfers, gave the reigning Masters champion a welcome dose of reality.
Day was bubbling over with emotion after hearing what Faldo told him as he sat near the 13th green Sunday.
“He just said, ‘Jason, it’s time to grow up,’” Day said. “He said, ‘You’ve got to learn how to win when it matters, because you’ll be a lot better off if you do. It doesn’t matter how you win, it just matters how you win.’ It was just all that emotion I had, everything bubbling. I couldn’t stop crying, literally.”
He also spoke with Spieth, who watched Day on television that night.
“I texted Jordan that night and we’ve been in regular communication,” Day said. “He was always a great example for me. He had a lot of distractions. He had lots of people around him that were trying to get him to play, he was in the spotlight. He just pulled through, as best he could. He did everything right. I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing. All the people were wrong.”