Day And McIlroy Have Had Plenty Of Opportunities In The Past, But Often Let Their Brains Get In The Way

By Ann Liguori
» More Columns

AUGUSTA, Ga. (CBSNewYork) — Current world No. 1 Jason Day and a former top-ranked player, Rory McIlroy, are both looking for their first Masters title.

READ MORE: Attorney Says Current Whereabouts Of Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito's Fiancé, Are Unknown

Both guys admitted Tuesday that they have tried way too hard to win a Green Jacket, and put far too much pressure on themselves in the past. As a result, both say they are backing off in the over-trying and over-thinking department.

“I just want to make sure I don’t overdo it,” said Day, who added it’s easy to spend too much time in the incredible practice facility and too much time playing prior to Thursday’s start.

Day added, “And this has been a tournament in the past that I’ve tried too hard and shot myself out of the tournament, so I’ve just got to kind of relax; understand that I have a certain process that I go through each tournament to get ready to compete and I need to stick to that. Don’t do anything more. Don’t do anything less, and from there, just try and go out and execute.”

MORE: Liguori: Picking A Winner At This Year’s Masters Not An Easy Feat

McIlroy decided not to come to Augusta prior to this week to practice and said he won’t play in the par-3 contest on Wednesday. He practiced in Florida the last few days and played “two good practice rounds” here on Monday and Tuesday.

“I really feel like I play my best golf when I’m more relaxed, when I’m having fun out there and I’m not, as you said, not overdoing it, not over-thinking it,” McIlroy added. “Definitely, the reason why I didn’t come up early was because of that. I’m trying not to look too much into it. I think there’s a balance to that. You can obviously relax too much, but then on the flip side, you can consume yourself with it.”

Day captured his first major championship last August when he won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits with a record-breaking score of 20-under. The 28-year-old Australian won five titles last year and has added two more to his collection this year. He said he hopes to continue his fine play come Thursday when he tees it up at 1:06 p.m.

READ MORE: Nearly 200 People Being Released From Rikers After Gov. Hochul Signs 'Less Is More Act,' Calls N.Y.'s Incarceration Rate 'A Point Of Shame'

McIlroy, the third-youngest four-time major champion, would like to add the elusive Green Jacket to his collection. The 26-year-old Northern Irishman is hoping to become the sixth player to secure a career grand slam, joining Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. McIlroy has the last tee time on Thursday, at 2:01 p.m.

Both players have held the lead at Augusta and both admit to wanting it so bad that they simply tried to do too much.

In his Masters debut in 2011, Day was one of eight leaders on Sunday but ended up finishing tied for second behind winner Charl Schwartzel. Two years later, Day had the outright lead heading into the 16th hole, but bogies on 16 and 17 dropped him to a third-place finish behind Adam Scott.

When asked what “trying too hard looks and feels like,” Day said he will try not to look “too much into a shot, overplaying a shot or making things too complicated where they should be simple, and just trying way too hard … trying to force and will (putts) in.”

McIlroy understands that. He also said he is playing one ball now in practice rounds and practicing shots from the pine straw, from the bunkers, to get “more of a feel of how the course is actually going to play.”

McIlroy said he has learned a lot since 2011 when he led by four shots going into the final round before collapsing on the back nine, carding an 80 and finishing 15th. He bounced back quite nicely from that disappointment by winning the U.S. Open at Congressional with a tournament-record final score of 16-under. He beat Day by eight shots.

When Rory was asked if he believes he will win a Masters, he replied, “Yeah, definitely. I feel like I’m a good enough player. I feel like I’ve got everything I need to become a Masters champion. But I think each and every year that passes that I don’t, it will become increasingly more difficult. So there’s no time like the present to get it done.”

MORE NEWS: After Almost 2 Years, New York Philharmonic Returns For 180th Season

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori