AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jason Day hasn't played a competitive round of golf since winning the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship six weeks ago, nor a stroke-play event in eight weeks.
But come Thursday's first round of the Masters, golf's No. 4 in the official world rankings will be among the favorites to win the first major of the season – left thumb willing.
Day's wounded thumb has been overshadowed by Tiger Woods' balky back and Phil Mickelson's back and side muscle problems. Just as those injuries hurt the game's two biggest stars, Day's strong start to the season came to a standstill.
"The injury was more frustrating for me because ... I was playing some pretty good golf. It was trending in the right direction going into the Florida swing there," Day said Monday as preparation at Augusta National was halted by storms that closed the course.
After taking anti-inflammatories for weeks to ease the pain, Day got a cortisone shot March31 that has calmed his thumb -- and mind.
"It's fine," Day said. "There's no pain. I'm taping it just as a precaution. To be able to swing pain-free now is great. ... I've played 36 holes here over the last four days, and the hand's coming up nicely. I'm really looking forward to a nice, solid start."
Day's thumb would have had to have been broken for him to miss the Masters. He has loved the place since the first time he woke up in Australia at 4 a.m. to watch the Masters in the 1990s.
The course suits his power game. He finished tied for second in his debut in 2011 and was poised to become the first Australian to win the Masters last year when he made birdie on the 15th in the final round and had the lead to himself on the 16th tee. But consecutive bogeys did him in and Adam Scott became the first Aussie to slip on the green jacket.
"I always wanted to be the first Australian to win it ... but I'm happy to be the second," said Day, whose three starts this year include a runner-up finish in the Farmers Insurance Open and his win at the Accenture, his second career title.
If he were to win this week, Day could become No. 1 in the world with his first major title.
Monday at the Masters in photos
"I just love everything about this place, the history and the tradition behind Augusta National and the Masters," Day, 26, said. "It's golfing heaven in such a small place, and every year it's just fun. And every time I get back here, it gets the juices flowing again."
Day has six top-10s in the last 13 majors, including two runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open and his two top-3 finishes at Augusta National. He isn't concerned that he has been off for six weeks.
"I just need to tighten up a few things" he said, "just kind of get a little sharper with my tee shots. ...
"I think it's the amount of work that I put into the game before the actual week starts, so the preparation is very huge for me. ... I know that this week, you really need your short game, so I've just been shelling a lot of chip shots and bunker shots and doing a lot of putting and speed putting.
"Preparation was huge before Torrey (in the Farmer's Insurance Open) and it's huge now."