AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jason Day thought about quitting professional golf before the 2011 Masters but he didn't, thanks to some sound advice and a brush with victory at Augusta National.
That also was when Day realized what the Masters and major championship golf really meant.
Day, playing in his first Masters, shot 68 in the final round that year to tie fellow Australian Adam Scott (67) for second, but both were lapped by Charl Schwarztel when the South African birdied the last four holes to win by two.
Rory McIlroy had a share or the outright lead through 18, 36 and 54 holes (before skyrocketing to an 80 in the final round), and in the mix were past and future Masters winners Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson and Angel Cabrera; plus Geoff Ogivly, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and K.J. Choi.
It was one of the most memorable final rounds in Masters history and Day said it affected him profoundly.
"I understood how important the majors are and how preparation is important coming into each of these four and how hard it is to peak at these events," he said on Monday during a news conference at the Masters media center. "That was a great introductory to what you felt trying to win a major championship, what you sensed out there, the feeling of the crowds, the feeling of, can you push far enough mentally and physically?"
Day said he got hooked on the adrenaline rush.
"Knowing that I could do this for the rest of my life if I get in this, get back into contention every single time I played a major championship, because it is so addicting," he said.
Before that tournament, Day had a string of poor performances. He limped into Augusta with two missed cuts and ties for 45th and 51st in two other events, in the span of five tournaments.
But he was turning the corner on his defeatist attiude, thanks to new agent Bud Martin, who recommended a sports psychologist. Day went from discouragement to knowing he belonged with the best and 10 PGA Tour victories later, including the 2015 PGA and the 2016 Players Championship, Day is among the favorites in a week ripe with possibilities.
"We ended up coming up with a plan of just going out there and having fun," Day said.
That 2011 Masters kicked off a string of five top-10 finishes in six starts for Day, including a tie for sixth at The Players and a solo second at the U.S. Open -- although he was a distant eight shots behind McIlroy at Congressional.
Day also has posted a solid record at Augusta National. Since missing the cut in 2012 he has finished among the top-25 in four of five years, with two top-10s. He was third in 2013, two shots out of the Scott-Cabrera playoff.
Day won his 11th PGA Tour title earlier this season at Torrey Pines, snapping a 20-month streak without a victory. He tied for second at Pebble Beach.
He's put a new set of irons in his bag this week that he said will help give him better control of the trajectory of his iron shots.
"Things are moving in the right direction," Day said. "The only thing I need to improve on is hitting it closer and hitting more greens but I think, hopefully, with this current change I have with the irons will ... give myself a few more opportunities on the greens."
This article is written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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