AUGUSTA, Georgia — Two shots. That’s all that separated Jason Day from his first Green Jacket at Augusta National. He started two back Sunday. He finished two back Sunday. The experience between, from his roaring birdie-eagle start that electrified the patrons and millions watching around the world to his final putt on No. 18, is certain to aid the 25-year-old Australian in his continued quest for a first career major championship.
After a perfect start at Augusta Sunday – Day went fairway, green, one-putt to move immediately within one shot of the lead heading to the second tee – he saved another highlight for the greenside bunker on No. 2. His ATV wedge in hand, Day took his stance on the upslope of the bunker with only one thought in mind. Make it.
He did, and two holes and six shots into his final round at Augusta, Day moved from two shots back into sole possession of the lead (then -8) at The Masters. Unfamiliar territory, it wasn’t, for Day, who recorded his first career top-5 finish at The Masters just two years ago, in 2011.
Bogies at No. 6 and No. 9 brought Day, one of four players in the field bidding to become the first Australian to win The Masters, back to six-under and needing to make red numbers to fight back into contention on Sunday. He steadied through the gates of Amen Corner, parring 10, 11 and 12 before another brilliant bunker shot on No. 13 sparked the first of three birdies in a row Day rolled in with his Ghost Spider S putter.
He led again standing on the 16th tee, just three holes to play at Augusta, but faltered in making back-to-back bogies on No. 16 and 17, needing to make a mid-range birdie on the 18th green to have a shot at a potential playoff with two other competitors. Day hit one more fantastic putt, edging inches by the cup before tapping in for his final-round 71, good for third place.
In spite of his disappointing finish, Day walked off the 18th green smiling before greeting his wife, Ellie, and son, Dash, waiting for him as he prepared to make his way to the scorer’s table. And although Sunday didn’t in fact prove to be Jason’s day, he said he plans to carry the experience and optimism away from another fantastic finish at Augusta.
“It’s obviously an honor to come this week and play and play against the best players in the world and obviously have a shot at winning my first Major and being the first Australian to win the Masters,” Day said in his press conference Sunday night. “It’s a little disappointing, but there’s a lot of experience that I can take into next year and hopefully I can wear one of those green jackets soon.”