Day leads Aussie charge at Masters
JASON Day has been at Augusta since last Friday practising in a sure sign the world No.3 is ready to lead the Aussie charge at the Masters.
Along with his caddy and coach Col Swatton, Day got in practice rounds on Friday and Saturday having not played since his emotional withdrawal from the World Match Play last month, when he revealed his mother, Dening, was battling lung cancer.
The Queenslander heads a group of five Aussies looking to join Adam Scott as a winner at Augusta and while Day remains most favoured in betting, it could be compatriot Marc Leishman who flies the flag.
Stuart Appleby played in 11 Masters, and was the 54-hole leader in 2007.
Having ridden the Augusta rollercoaster he knows there's one thing you have to have, and it's not in your bag, before you get to the year's first major if you want to win.
"You don't bump into form at Augusta; you have to bring it," Appleby said.
"Nothing beats a good warm engine. Tiger was pretty good at coming out of the hole, taking a month off then coming out and winning, but I found that impossible.
"I think Leish is the most ready, but you still have to play 72 holes."
Leishman, the world No.27, has already won this year, snaring the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill last month. He also made the quarter-finals of the World Match Play two weeks ago, losing to Phil Mickelson.
It's a form line that compares favourably to 2013 Masters champ Scott, who missed the cut at the Houston Open last weekend.
He has played just 18 competitive rounds in a reduced schedule this year, which is geared around peaking for the majors.
He has also been travelling between Queensland, where his pregnant wife is based, and the US more often.
Day too, who took the last three months of 2016 off to deal with a back issue, played just six events this year before his emotion-charged withdrawal from the match play after six holes.
"Leish is playing well, and he has some great Masters memories (tied fourth in 2013), so there is some comfort level there, or at least as comfortable as you can be going to Augusta," Appleby said.
"Nothing beats a good dose of confidence. He said he has been putting the dots off it, and that's very important at Augusta.
"I think Jason is the same and Scotty is the same. Those guys have enough repeat appearances and repeat mental practices there that can help them get somewhere around the lead on Sunday."
Knowing the emotional experiences Day has been through in recent weeks, including his mother's successful surgery 10 days ago, Appleby said the former No.1 would have to be "free as a bird" mentally to get the Masters success he so dearly craves.
"If he goes, he needs to fully go, and I think he'll be okay with that," Appleby said
"He's a much focussed individual and I don't think he'll play unless he can fully be Jason Day."