AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jason Day set two goals for his career. He wanted to get to No. 1 in the world, and he wanted to win the Masters.
But if he could only reach one goal, which does he choose?
For the only time during his engaging news conference Monday, the 27-year-old Australian looked uncomfortable.
He loves the Masters, his favorite major. He was runner-up in 2011. He had a share of the lead late on Sunday in 2013 until he missed out on the playoff between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera, with Scott becoming the first Aussie in a green jacket.
But there’s an appeal to be No. 1 in the world, too. And four members of Augusta National in their green jackets were in the room.
“It’s tough,” Day said, leaning back and shaking his head. “This is the tournament that got me into golf. And being No. 1 has always been a lifelong goal of mine. Just to be able to say you’re No. 1, you are the best golfer on the planet, just for one day, would be the best thing ever. Knowing that you were the best in the world would be pretty neat.”
So the answer is to be No. 1 in the world? Hang on.
“But to be able to slip on a green jacket … I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a difficult one, mate. I’m dancing around the question.”
Here’s the easy solution for Day. He can’t reach No. 1 in the world this week if he were to win. But at No. 5 in the world, and healthy and determined as ever, he is among the favorites to win the Masters this week.
ANOTHER CAREER SLAM: One thing Tiger Woods has yet to achieve is another version of the career Grand Slam: missing the cut in all four majors.
Woods has never missed the cut at the Masters as a pro, a streak sure to be tested this week. It’s his first competition since Feb. 5, and his game was in the worst shape of his career when he stepped away.
Woods didn’t miss a cut in any major until his 10th year, and that was the 2006 U.S. Open in his first event back since the death of his father. He missed his first cut in the British Open in 2009 at Turnberry, and in the PGA Championship in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Jack Nicklaus, meanwhile, played in 95 majors before he had missed the cut in each of them. The last one to go was the British Open in 1985.
Tom Watson played 90 majors before he missed the cut in all of them, while Arnold Palmer played 89 majors before his career Grand Slam cut.
Woods has played 66 majors going into Augusta.
As for his contemporaries? It wasn’t a fair fight. Phil Mickelson played only 15 majors before missing the cut in all of them, while Ernie Els went 12 majors.
EARLY TO WORK: Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange was at the Masters on Monday and already at work with ESPN. It’s one day earlier than he usually works. Chalk that up to “The North Clause.”
Andy North, who grew up and still lives in Wisconsin, typically works on Monday, but there was an agreement that Strange would fill in if Wisconsin reached the NCAA championship game. The Badgers played Duke for the title Monday night.
Strange was happy to fill in. That was before Tiger Woods showed up at 3:30 and didn’t finish 11 holes of practice until 7 p.m.
LOW-MILEAGE SPECIALS: If owning a small fleet of Ferraris is any indication, Ian Poulter likes to drive. Just not for too long.
The Englishman resides in Orlando, Florida, a six-hour drive from Augusta and the Masters. He didn’t even consider making the road trip.
“Any more than two hours is a complete waste of time. I hate sitting in a car for more than two hours max, two hours 15 (minutes),” Poulter said.
Someone pointed out that any one of those Ferraris is fast enough to knock some serious time off the trip. Poulter waved him off.
“No matter how quick you go, two hours, 15 is enough. Two hours and 20 and my boredom threshold kicks in,” he said, “and that could get dangerous.”
DEFINITION OF A STAR: Gary Player believes words like “superstar” and “greatness” are used far too often these days.
Player, the third of five players to complete the career Grand Slam, has a high standard.
“I say you’ve got to win six majors to be classified as a superstar,” Player said. “And I think that condenses it down to 13, 14 people in the game.”
The South African had done his homework. Thirteen players have won at least six majors.
Rory McIlroy already has four majors at age 25, and he’s going after the Grand Slam this week if he can win the Masters. So what if McIlroy is wearing a green jacket on Sunday night? That would make him one of six players with the career Grand Slam, but he would have only five majors.
“I think you’ve got to always make exceptions in everything you say,” Player said. “If a man wins a Grand Slam, he’s a superstar, no question.”
OLD-SCHOOL DAY: Jason Day has decided to take the 1-iron out of the bag for the Masters and use the 2-iron.
That led to one question: Who uses a 1-iron anymore?
“I was just talking to (Nick) Faldo the other day … and he was looking at my 1-iron and I said, ‘It’s not like the old days where you had a butter knife. These things are big, old thick things that you can get up in the air.’ It’s modern-day technology. It certainly has changed a lot.”
Day did not know of any other players who carried a 1-iron. Some have driving irons, but it’s not the same.
“Not with the old ‘1’ on the head,” he said. “I’ve never see another guy have that.”
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