Philip Reid’s Augusta Diary: Wednesday
Willett climbing Everest, Thunderstorms due, Pressure on Hideki Matsuyama
A view of the 10th hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2017 Masters at Augusta National. Photograph: Getty Images
Balls away for Day
Some golfers are superstitious when it comes to what to do with a used golf ball. Ernie Els, for example, will always give the ball away to someone in the crowd every time he has a birdie. Others will change golf balls immediately after recording a bogey. Some are tossed into the nearest water hazard.
Jason Day doesn’t have any such superstition. “If there’s no scuffs on it or no marks, or if I skull it or anything like that, then I’ll keep using it. Sometimes I’ll go through rounds with one or two balls, where some guys use a ton of different golf balls . . . if its hot, I’ll just keep going with it. Then, as time goes on, it starts to wear out, I’ll see a kid and throw it to him.”
So it is that Day doesn’t have any ball from his Players Championship win or from his US PGA triumph . . . but what he does keep are the 18th hole flags. “[Balls] are not sentimental to me, I do keep flags, the 18th hole flags. That’s very sentimental to me. So if I win, I get the 18th hole flag.”
Word of mouth
“You’ve climbed Everest and you’ve put your flag in. Unfortunately you’ve either got to climb down or stay up there, and it’s incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time.”
– Danny Willett on the challenge of competing each week as the Masters champion.
By the numbers
96 - With a 96 per cent chance of thunderstorms in the Augusta area forecast for today, with large hailstones, strong winds and a tornado anticipated, the traditional eve-of-tournament par three competition could be in jeopardy.
One man with the weight of a nation on his shoulders is Hideki Matsuyama, who is seen as the best chance to break the duck for Japan in winning one of golf’s Major s. However, Matsuyama – with two top-10s at his most recent Masters appearances – is struggling to rediscover his form from the turn of the year: the 25-year-old won at the HSBC Champions, the Hero World Challenge and the Phoenix Open in three months.
“Compared to last November, December, my game is not at the same level right now but I’ve been working hard and seen some improvement. I’ve been working on my short game a lot, almost too much, because my longer shots, iron shots and drivers, have suffered a bit. Whether or not my confidence level is where it should be, I’m not sure. But one thing I’m looking forward to is for the bell to ring on Thursday and see how I can do. I hope I can play a lot better than I have been.”