No world No. 1 has won the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002, and current incumbent Jason Day does not consider himself the favourite this week.
Yet the in-form Australian, with a title from his last two starts, knows victory at Augusta National this week is precisely what he needs to strengthen his position at the top of the golfing tree.
Day, 28, has every right to feel at the peak of his powers this week. The pressure of not having won a major was alleviated last August when he took the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and his wins last month at Bay Hill and then the WGC Dell Match Play ousted defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth from the No. 1 ranking.
Now Day must consolidate his position and winning the first major of the season would do just that. His Masters record, with a second in 2012 and third in 2013, is as impressive as his consistency across the majors, with seven top-five finishes since the beginning of 2011.
Yet the Queenslander recognises this week’s Masters is wide open and not just between himself, Spieth, and Rory McIlroy, the current one, two, three.
“To be honest, I don’t think I’m the favourite this week,” Day said yesterday. “There’s a lot of people out there that can play well this week and win as well, because you know, Jordan and Rory and Henrik (Stenson), how he’s playing lately, and even Phil (Mickelson) is a favourite here. There’s so many players that can win around here, and there’s not just one heavy favourite this week, which is fantastic. I think it’s good for the game of golf and I think it’s good for this tournament, as well.”
Day acknowledges, however, that the competition is not conducive to staying No. 1.
“Winning takes care of everything, and if you win, usually win the big ones, and you can extend the gap between being No. 1 and No. 2 in the world. My focus right now is on trying to extend the gap.
“The competition is very stiff. It’s really tough with how everyone is playing. Jordan and Rory are young guys, so we’re all kind of motivating each other and Rickie (Fowler), as well, all motivating each other to try and play better each and every week.
“If one of us plays well, then usually there’s two out of three or three out of three guys that are going to step up practising and play harder, because it’s inspiring and motivating to watch the other guy win because you know you can do it, and why can’t it be you.
“So right now, I’m kind of doing that right now. Jordan was at the start of the year; Rickie was at the start of the year. Rory hasn’t won one yet, but he’s very close to winning. And obviously I’m kind of right here right now doing my thing.
“It’s just really fun to see how the health of the game is right now and how competitive it is. I guess what we love the most is the competitive nature of everything.”
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