2019 Masters Tournament | Jason Day

Jason Day hits his tee shot on the fourth hole Friday.

AUGUSTA, Georgia – Jason Day was soaking his aching back in the bathtub Friday morning, throwing a pity party, complaining about his rotten lousy luck. Of all the times for his back to go out. And of all the ways – bending over to give his daughter a kiss one day earlier on the putting green at Augusta National, just before he was to tee off in the first round of the 83rd Masters Tournament.

Like his bath water, he thought, his hopes of winning were circling the drain.

His wife, Ellie, was having none of his mope-a-dope. So the mentally tougher of the two – Day readily admits it – gave her husband a stern little pep talk.

“It’s the Masters,” she said. “You need to suck it up.”

It was exactly what he needed to hear. Oh-poor-me won’t get you a green jacket. If Day could play, he needed to adjust his attitude.

“Everyone that I’m playing against is not going to be sympathetic to me because I’ve got a sore back,” Day said. “They aren’t going to go out there and shoot one more than they should because I’ve got a bad back. They’re going to use it to their advantage, knowing they’ve got that over me.

“So, I’ve got to be mentally strong, and sometimes having a good, supportive wife and knowing what she has to say in certain situations to get me ready is crucial. And it obviously helped today.”

As the old saying goes, beware the injured golfer. One day after Day considered withdrawing before scratching out a 70 while moving as gingerly as a UFC fighter after a five-round beat-down, he went out and shot a sterling 5-under 67.

On a wild day on which Zach Johnson accidentally hit his ball while making a practice swing and a member of Tiger Woods’ security detail slipped and nearly took him out – both video clips went viral – Day’s round was hard to top, literally and figuratively.

It left the 31-year-old Aussie, who won the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, in a five-way tie for the lead with Italy’s Francesco Molinari, first-round co-leader Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott and South African Louis Oosthuizen. All are major champions.

With Woods and Dustin Johnson just one stroke back, Jon Rahm two back and Phil Mickelson trailing by only three, it’s the best 36-hole leader board in recent Masters history. Of the top 15 on the leader board, eight have won majors and all but three are ranked among the top 20 in the Official Golf World Ranking.

Day has been dealing with a bad back for most of this year. He withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and said an MRI had revealed an annular tear in the disk between the L4 and L5 vertebra. He played three times in the Masters lead-up, tying for eighth at The Players, missing the cut at Valspar and failing to get out of group play at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

He re-injured the back when he bent down to kiss his daughter, Lucy, before the first round Thursday. After hitting his tee shot on the par-5 second hole, he immediately headed off to the side of the tee box to receive medical treatment, but continued playing.

“It would have been disappointing for me to go home yesterday, knowing I had to pull out because of my back,” Day said. “I feel very blessed to be able to play, especially over the last two days, and being able to go out there today and shoot 67 was a very, very good score.”

When his back flares up, Day goes through an extraordinary regimen to get ready to play.

“This is going to sound really weird: I have to get my ribcage back in position,” he said. “When my back was sore last week my ribcage was out and I was kind of aligned … my left shoulder was high and if you look at the back line of my pants, you could see that my hips were kind of shifted and tilted.

“I blow into balloons in certain positions to try to get my ribcage down and I’ve got these other exercises to try to get space in the joint with regards to my hips and my back and my shoulders and that takes 20 or 30 minutes in the morning and 20 or 30 minutes at night.”

Maybe it would be easier if Ellie just walked on his back.

Anyway, it’s doubtful anyone else in the field – even Woods, who has had spinal fusion surgery – has gone through that protocol in the week leading up to the Masters. Asked if he’d considered any unusual remedies, Day said, “I think blowing into a balloon is pretty funny.”

He then relayed a story from last week, when he was doing the balloon thing while lying flat on his back in the pilot’s lounge at a Florida airport.

“And as you let the balloons go, it sounds like you let one go, right?” he said. “So, every 30 seconds, I would be letting the balloons out and these guys are looking at me very strange. I’m just doing whatever I can to feel good. If blowing in balloons is what I need to do to feel good, then I will do it all day long.”

OK, back to golf. Day birdied Nos. 3, 5 and 8 on the front nine and Nos. 13, 15 and 16 on the back. His lone bogey came on the par-3 12th.

“Over the last two days, I’ve played the par-5s nicely,” he said. “I think I’ve played them 7-under, which is good. I’m trying to minimize the mistakes out there. That’s the whole goal.”

He admitted that dealing with back pain actually has relieved the pressure of playing in a major championship because his expectations are lowered.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “Especially at a place like this. A major, you know, Augusta National, the Masters, everything that goes on this week, how big it is, and the distraction of wanting to win this tournament so bad. Sometimes it’s almost a blessing in disguise with regards to bringing down the expectation of going out there and trying too hard.”

Who knows? If Day keeps playing like this, he just might back into a green jacket.

2019 Masters Tournament: Second-round results (Augusta National GC-Augusta, Georgia)

Pos. Player Total Thru Today R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
T1 Francesco Molinari -7 F -5 70 67 -- -- 137
T1 Jason Day -7 F -5 70 67 -- -- 137
T1 Brooks Koepka -7 F -1 66 71 -- -- 137
T1 Adam Scott -7 F -4 69 68 -- -- 137
T1 Louis Oosthuizen -7 F -6 71 66 -- -- 137
T6 Dustin Johnson -6 F -2 68 70 -- -- 138
T6 Justin Harding -6 F -3 69 69 -- -- 138
T6 Xander Schauffele -6 F -7 73 65 -- -- 138
T6 Tiger Woods -6 F -4 70 68 -- -- 138
T10 Ian Poulter -5 F -1 68 71 -- -- 139
T10 Jon Rahm -5 F -2 69 70 -- -- 139
T12 Patton Kizzire -4 F -2 70 70 -- -- 140
T12 Matt Kuchar -4 F -3 71 69 -- -- 140
T12 Phil Mickelson -4 F 1 67 73 -- -- 140
T12 Charles Howell III -4 F -5 73 67 -- -- 140
T16 Kiradech Aphibarnrat -3 F E 69 72 -- -- 141
T16 Bryson DeChambeau -3 F 3 66 75 -- -- 141
T16 Justin Thomas -3 F -4 73 68 -- -- 141
T16 Corey Conners -3 F -1 70 71 -- -- 141
T16 Tony Finau -3 F -2 71 70 -- -- 141
T16 Gary Woodland -3 F -1 70 71 -- -- 141
T16 Rickie Fowler -3 F -1 70 71 -- -- 141
T23 Thorbjorn Olesen -2 F -1 71 71 -- -- 142
T23 Kevin Kisner -2 F 1 69 73 -- -- 142
T23 J.B. Holmes -2 F E 70 72 -- -- 142
T23 Lucas Bjerregaard -2 F E 70 72 -- -- 142
T23 Charley Hoffman -2 F -1 71 71 -- -- 142
T23 Tommy Fleetwood -2 F -1 71 71 -- -- 142
T29 Bernhard Langer -1 F E 71 72 -- -- 143
T29 Rafa Cabrera Bello -1 F -2 73 70 -- -- 143
T29 Jordan Spieth -1 F -4 75 68 -- -- 143
T29 Kevin Tway -1 F -1 72 71 -- -- 143
T29 Viktor Hovland (a) -1 F -1 72 71 -- -- 143
T29 Patrick Reed -1 F -2 73 70 -- -- 143
T29 Webb Simpson -1 F -1 72 71 -- -- 143
T36 Jimmy Walker E F E 72 72 -- -- 144
T36 Kevin Na E F 1 71 73 -- -- 144
T36 Alvaro Ortiz (a) E F -1 73 71 -- -- 144
T36 Keegan Bradley E F -4 76 68 -- -- 144
T36 Bubba Watson E F E 72 72 -- -- 144
T36 Si Woo Kim E F E 72 72 -- -- 144
T36 Kyle Stanley E F E 72 72 -- -- 144
T36 Marc Leishman E F E 72 72 -- -- 144
T36 Rory McIlroy E F -1 73 71 -- -- 144
T36 Cameron Smith E F 2 70 74 -- -- 144
T46 Matthew Fitzpatrick 1 F -5 78 67 -- -- 145
T46 Satoshi Kodaira 1 F -2 75 70 -- -- 145
T46 Andrew Landry 1 F 1 72 73 -- -- 145
T46 Hideki Matsuyama 1 F -2 75 70 -- -- 145
T50 Trevor Immelman 2 F E 74 72 -- -- 146
T50 Tyrrell Hatton 2 F 1 73 73 -- -- 146
T50 Patrick Cantlay 2 F 1 73 73 -- -- 146
T50 Keith Mitchell 2 F 2 72 74 -- -- 146
T50 Aaron Wise 2 F -1 75 71 -- -- 146
T50 Henrik Stenson 2 F E 74 72 -- -- 146
T50 Haotong Li 2 F 2 72 74 -- -- 146
T57 Devon Bling (a) 3 F 1 74 73 -- -- 147
T57 Martin Kaymer 3 F 2 73 74 -- -- 147
T57 Alex Noren 3 F E 75 72 -- -- 147
T57 Billy Horschel 3 F 3 72 75 -- -- 147
T57 Zach Johnson 3 F 1 74 73 -- -- 147
T57 Takumi Kanaya (a) 3 F 2 73 74 -- -- 147
T57 Branden Grace 3 F 3 72 75 -- -- 147
T57 Emiliano Grillo 3 F 3 72 75 -- -- 147
T57 Eddie Pepperell 3 F 1 74 73 -- -- 147
MISSED CUT
CUT Sandy Lyle 4 -- -- 73 75 -- -- 148
CUT Stewart Cink 4 -- -- 76 72 -- -- 148
CUT Justin Rose 4 -- -- 75 73 -- -- 148
CUT Kevin O'Connell (a) 4 -- -- 77 71 -- -- 148
CUT Mike Weir 4 -- -- 72 76 -- -- 148
CUT Danny Willett 4 -- -- 75 73 -- -- 148
CUT Sergio Garcia 4 -- -- 73 75 -- -- 148
CUT Adam Long 5 -- -- 75 74 -- -- 149
CUT Brandt Snedeker 5 -- -- 75 74 -- -- 149
CUT Fred Couples 5 -- -- 78 71 -- -- 149
CUT Charl Schwartzel 5 -- -- 77 72 -- -- 149
CUT Shugo Imahira 6 -- -- 76 74 -- -- 150
CUT Larry Mize 7 -- -- 77 74 -- -- 151
CUT Shane Lowry 7 -- -- 78 73 -- -- 151
CUT Matt Wallace 8 -- -- 75 77 -- -- 152
CUT Jovan Rebula (a) 8 -- -- 73 79 -- -- 152
CUT Michael Kim 10 -- -- 76 78 -- -- 154
CUT Paul Casey 10 -- -- 81 73 -- -- 154
CUT Vijay Singh 12 -- -- 80 76 -- -- 156
CUT Ian Woosnam 12 -- -- 80 76 -- -- 156
CUT Jose Maria Olazabal 13 -- -- 78 79 -- -- 157
CUT Angel Cabrera 13 -- -- 82 75 -- -- 157

garyd@killarneygolfmedia.com

Gary has covered golf in Wisconsin since 1980 and is a multiple award winner in the GWAA writing contest. He was inducted into the WSGA Hall of Fame in 2017 and joined Wisconsin.Golf in 2018 after a distinguished career at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.