April 2, 2018 / 9:00 PM / 23 days ago

New Day dawns at U.S. Masters

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Former world number one Jason Day, fortified by a change of irons and a change of caddie, hopes the new formula will help him reach a career goal of donning the Green Jacket this week as U.S. Masters champion.

Jason Day of Australia hits from a sand trap on the second green during practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S. April 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Day switched to a set of new Ping blades since last month’s World Golf Championship Match Play event and will be playing his first major without long-time swing teacher Colin Swatton on his bag. Instead childhood buddy Rika Batibasaga will be his caddie.

“I wasn’t quite happy with how I was hitting it at the (World Golf Championships) Match Play,” the Australian, who finished tied for 36th there, told reporters at Augusta National on Monday. “I was launching (iron shots) a little bit higher and spinning a little bit too much.”

While most golfers might long for such a result, the 30-year-old Day said holding Augusta National’s notoriously fast, sloping greens required more precise control. 

“There is a lot of breeze here at times, and you have to be able to control your trajectory and your spin.

“Hopefully I can come into a week like this and really hit a lot of greens and give myself opportunities. I’m striving toward one day slipping that Green Jacket on and being able to call myself a Masters champion.”

Day, the 2015 PGA champion, removed caddie duties from Swatton, who remains his coach, and has been alternating between two old friends Rika and Luke Reardon since late last season.  

“Having Rika on the bag this week, I think hopefully that will make things a little bit more light out there for me and a little bit more fun,” he said.

“Over the last few years it’s been more of a grind trying to get that win because a lot of people have come up to me and said: ‘This is your year, this is your year, you’re going to win one.’

“And that can add a little bit more pressure.”

Day has slipped to 11th in the world rankings, but is showing signs of a revival after winning at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year.

A lot might hinge on how well Day hits his new irons.

“I’ve been putting great, so if I can get myself on the greens and give myself the opportunities, hopefully the putter will take over and I can get myself in contention on Sunday,” said Day, who tied for second as a Masters rookie in 2011, and finished third in a wild Augusta shootout in 2013 won by compatriot Adam Scott.

Also standing in Day’s way may be the resurgent Tiger Woods, who is dominating the buzz this week as he takes his next step in a promising comeback from injuries.        

“Tiger’s Tiger, but I think the biggest thing for me is I can’t beat myself,” said Day.

“I think on my good day I’ve got a good chance of beating him on his good day. I honestly believe that.

“You got to have that self‑belief.”

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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