Jason Day has been handed a potentially testy grouping for the opening rounds of the US Masters, teeing off with one of the most vocal critics of the Australian’s alleged slow play.
World No.3 Day has been grouped with England’s Olympic champions Justin Rose and American Brandt Snedeker, who spoke out against Day’s desire to be more deliberate on each shot in 2017.
In January, 29-year-old Day revealed his approach to tournaments in 2017 would be to “get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, I’m going to.”
Snedeker, a two-time Ryder Cup player and eight-time PGA Tour winner, took exception.
“If I were to get paired with Jason on the weekend of a major championship … and we get put on the clock and I need a minute on a shot late on Sunday afternoon, am I allowed to have that time because Jason has played slow all day?” he asked.
“That creates a problem with me. I don’t feel that creates a level playing field, and it’s not being respectful to your fellow tour pros.”
Day, meanwhile, has received a major boost on the eve of the Masters with US doctors confirming his mother does not need chemotherapy for lung cancer.
In his media conference at Augusta National on Tuesday he revealed his mother, Dening’s, surgery to remove a 3.5cm tumour in her lungs last month was successful and she has avoided chemotherapy treatment.
“The news is really, really exciting. [Cancer] is a very painful thing to watch a loved one go through, but we’re very pleased to be able to get through this stage and hopefully she can live a very long life,” Day said.
He admitted the emotional stress of his mother’s diagnosis affected his recent lacklustre results.
“I feel like [the news] takes a lot of pressure and a huge weight off my shoulders. The swing feels amazing, so does the short game, and I feel like I have more touch in my hands,” he said.
Aussies ready for Augusta National assault
Australia’s hopes of claiming a second green jacket at Augusta National appear infinitely more upbeat than the frosty forecast of less than a month ago.
As late as mid-March, no Australian had won on the US PGA Tour in 2017 and Jason Day had lost the world No.1 ranking to Dustin Johnson.
World-class ball-striker Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, was struggling from tee to green and the in-form Marc Leishman was contending regularly on tour without lifting a trophy.
But with the stage set for one of the most exciting Masters in recent times, five Australian golfers are poised for a green and gold assault on Augusta.
While a reinvigorated Day leads the Aussie charge, world No. 9 Scott has seen signs of his ball-striking improving during practice rounds. He is also buoyed by the return of star caddie Steve Williams.
Leishman arrives at the year’s first major as the most-in form Australian golfer.
The Victorian bagged his first win on Tour in five years at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, in addition to three top-10s and seven top-25s in nine events this season.
Veteran Queenslander Rod Pampling has never finished outside the top-40 in three starts at Augusta, while top-ranked amateur Curtis Luck has been gifted practice rounds with Scott, Day and world No.2 Rory McIlroy ahead of a dream Masters debut.