Finding the right preparation mix to win a major championship isn’t an exact formula. And as two of Australia’s big hopes this week, Jason Day and Marc Leishman, prove there can be a big difference from player to player.
Day arrived in Augusta on Saturday and walked nine holes, chipping and putting at every green. The Queenslander doing the same on Sunday as well as spending a great deal of time on the putting green under the watchful eye of coach Col Swatton as he continues to manage the back injury that saw him walk off the course during the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational just a few weeks ago.
“It feels alright, it just is what it is,” Day told Golf Australia magazine of the injury. “It feels pretty good, I’m out here practicing and working on it, so yeah I will get some physio this week and things should hold up pretty good.”
Day is almost the prototype of the modern golfer. As he walks around Augusta National it is hard not to be impressed by the physical shape he is in, despite his ongoing battles with injury. And his approach to his practise is similarly regimented to his gym work, hitting exact numbers of putts on the practise green on Sunday and counting the number holed. All of which was then recorded by caddie Luke Reardon.
RIGHT: Day says his back "feels good" despite his recent withdrawl at Bay Hill. PHOTO: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.
But Day, who appears to leave no stone unturned when gearing up for a big tournament, admits finding balance in his approach when preparing for the first major of the year is something he is still searching for. And may have even contributed to his latest bout of back trouble.
“I added more events earlier on this year than I have in the past and I don’t know if that has necessarily hurt my back or not,” Day said. “It’s just hard to pinpoint exactly what hurt the back, but my sole goal was try and get into Augusta with a decent amount of playing time under my belt this year because in previous years gone I haven’t just played enough and I needed to somehow find that balance.
“And I feel good about my game but you know in the same I haven’t had great finishes in the last two weeks but I have had decent finishes at the start of the year. So I feel like things are slowly progressing now. I’ve just been working really hard on my chipping and my putting, especially you know because you really need it around here.”
Whereas Day’s almost scientific approach to the game is becoming more common on the PGA Tour, Leishman is something of a throwback to days gone by.
The Victorian walked off the course after nine holes late in the day on Sunday happy with his game, indeed satisfied enough to cancel his plans to play the second half of the course.
Like Day, Leishman took the week off after the WGC-Match Play, but took a more wholistic approach to his preparation that included attending the first canning on the beer that bears his name, Leishman Lager.
“There was a fair bit of quality control, I was there at the canning process and we had to test them once they were in the can to make sure they taste the same,” Leishman joked of the first cans of Leishman Lager being prepared for sale in his adopted home state of Virginia.
“It was a good week off, did a little bit of prep, but just did what I had to and rested up. The match play was good, I felt like that was really good preparation, the way I feel now compared to the way I felt leaving The Players is two ends of the spectrum so happy with how everything’s feeling. The course hasn’t changed too much, still feel comfortable out here, just about execution now.”
Despite Day’s interrupted run to Augusta National and Leishman’s SOS lesson from coach Dennis McDade a few weeks ago, both are confident with their games and comfortable at The Masters where both have had success in the past without managing to get over the line.
“I feel like I am playing well at the right time of the year, but it’s a funny game. As I showed a few weeks ago, yes I have won this season but I have also had a couple of bad tournaments,” Leishman said. “I feel good, but I know things can change quickly and I am not taking it for granted that I am hitting it well at the moment. It doesn’t matter how I am hitting it the Sunday before the Masters it’s how I’m hitting it Thursday and probably more importantly next Sunday.”
And while his week getting ready for the biggest tournament of the year so far didn’t include tasting a beer with his name on it, Day’s synopsis of his game and the mental approach to playing good golf at the right time at Augusta sounds very similar to his compatriot. Proving that a common goal doesn’t emanate from a one size fits all preparation.
“You’ve got to understand that the (green) speeds now will be different come Thursday depending on obviously the weather, but being able to get used to the lines, being able to get used to where you have to hit your chip shots, I mean we have played here enough to know exactly where we need to chip the balls and where we need to putt the balls, but it’s always good to come in and get the lines, reconfirm the lines again,” Day said.
“You’ve just got to not try too hard, that’s the main thing and then I think if I can get the right prep in and not think about it and just go out and play then hopefully all the good results come.”