AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jason Day began the Masters by throwing his back out while leaning down to kiss his daughter on the practice green.
He played his way onto the leaderboard a day later after receiving a scolding from his wife.
“It’s the Masters, you need to suck it up,” Day said his wife, Ellie, told him Friday morning.
Day, who has a history of being bothered by medical issues, did better than just sucking it up. He went out and shot a 5-under 67 to move into a tie for the second-round lead.
And that had him feeling a lot better.
“I can’t complain about it too much,” Day said. “She’s birthed three children and I haven’t, so she’s a lot stronger as a person than me with regards to pain, and I just hit a little white golf ball around a course.”
Day birdied all the par-5s on Augusta National to get to 7-under-par going into the weekend. That followed a 2-under 70 the day before, when Day said he injured himself kissing his daughter just a few minutes before walking to the first tee.
Day’s trainer followed him around the course in the opening round, giving him treatment at one point as he lay down on the second tee box. Day said he briefly considered pulling out of the tournament but decided to play in hope his back would loosen up.
Exercise and treatment helped enough that he was relatively pain free in the second round, and Day took advantage. He was particularly effective on the reachable par-5s, making birdie on all four after birdieing three the day before.
“The whole goal is to try and take advantage of the par 5s here this week,” Day said. “The par 3s can be difficult at times, and then some of the par 4s, you need to get through. But you know, over the last two days, I’ve played the par 5s nicely.”
Just being able to play this year has been difficult at times for Day, who withdrew from the Bay Hill tournament earlier this year because of back issues.
He does stretches and therapy for 20-30 minutes at night and the same in the morning. He blows into a balloon to, he said, move his rib cage into proper position.
And he deals with the negative fallout on social media when he leaves a golf tournament because of medical issues. At the age of 31 that’s happened nine times already, and that doesn’t include when he collapsed on the ninth green in the opening round of the U.S. Open in 2015 because of vertigo.
After his withdrawal at Bay Hill someone posted a photo on social media of Day walking around with his family at Disney World the next day.
“Pain is a funny thing, it goes up and down, and everybody’s pain threshold is different,” he said. “Someone that is in a lot of pain might feel, you know, something totally different compared to me, so it’s hard. Every day I feel like I wake up with some sort of aches, you know, and I think you just kind of learn to live with it and you just go along the way.”
Day, an Australian native who lives in the U.S., has won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including his lone major, the PGA Championship in 2015. He won twice last year and has played relatively well this year, with three top-10 finishes, and is ranked 14th in the world.
The Masters is his favorite tournament and one he might have expected to win by now. He finished tied for second in his first Masters in 2011.
If anything, Day says, he might want the green jacket too much. And, in a funny kind of way, his bad back might ease the pressure this week.
“Yeah, definitely. Especially at a place like this,” he said. ”... How big 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.”