ATLANTA (Reuters) - Six days after Jason Day pulled out of the BMW Championship with a back complaint, his caddie was forced to withdraw from the opening round of the elite Tour Championship on Thursday because of a back issue.
Caddie Col Swatton left the course after seven holes and was replaced by Day’s mental coach, Jason Goldsmith, but the switch worked surprisingly well as the Australian went on to card three birdies en route to a three-under-par 67.
That left Day in a four-way tie for third place in the PGA Tour’s fourth and final FedExCup playoff event at East Lake Golf Club, just one stroke off the pace.
“It’s gotta be frustrating for him because obviously this is a big tournament not only for me but for him as well,” world number eight Day told reporters about Swatton’s withdrawal.
“And I know how much he loves being out here caddying and trying to get us to win tournaments. Since he first caddied for me, in 2006 I’m thinking, he’s never missed a tournament. This was the first one.”
Swatton also acts as Day’s swing coach and the Australian was a little peeved that his regular caddie initially decided to carry his bag, despite not feeling fully fit overnight.
“I told him: ‘Look, if you get out there and you pull out, I’m going to be very pissed, because I said take the day off,’” Day explained. “I said: ‘If you just miss today and you feel better tomorrow, then I’ve got you for the next three days.’
“I don’t know what he did to his back last night, but he did something. He had to pull out after seven holes.
“And it turned out great,” said Day, who mixed five birdies with two bogeys during the round. “I mean, my short game is coming around nicely. I’ve been working hard on that, and I saved myself a couple of times out there which was good.”
Goldsmith was always going to be in foreign territory as a backup caddie, though he usually walks outside the ropes when Day competes on tour and often does the green reading for his player in practice.
“He didn’t know what to do today, really, so he just had the yardage book,” Day smiled. “He’s coming over to me and he looked official.
“It just kind of clicked. It worked. I did all the yardages out there and we were just talking out there, kind of just going about our way, and that kind of calmed me down a little bit.
“When you have a (regular) caddie and you both do yardages, there’s so many numbers flying around it’s sometimes hard to commit to some shots. But it seemed like every other yardage after he (Swatton) pulled out I got it right.”
Day, who won his first World Golf Championships title at the Accenture Match Play Championship in February, withdrew from last week’s BMW event after nine holes in the second round, putting his place in some doubt for this week.
“I’ve been getting at least two sessions a day, anywhere between two and four hours, since then,” said Day.
“That much work can definitely mess with your timing, mess with the sync of the swing, just because things are moving a lot better than what you’re used to.
“I just felt good out there even though I had some loose shots. I’m just out here trying to do my job, and my job is to try and win at the end of the week.”
Editing by Frank Pingue