World news – AU – Baker-Finch says Winged Foot’s notorious hazards could favour Day

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Ian Baker-Finch says Jason Day needs to avoid the treacherous rough at Winged Foot at all costs to save his back and his sanity as the Queenslander prepares for this week’s US Open in New York.

Winged Foot has hosting rights for the sixth time and continues to be one of the hardest tests of golf. It bristles with trees lining its thin fairways and asks players to hit fast, sloping greens with the utmost precision.

Jason Day has produced some strong tournaments in recent months, including finishing tied fourth at the PGA Championships.Credit:Getty

Day will be one of the leading Australian hopes as he tries to add a second major to the pool room after victory in the 2015 PGA Championship. The former world No.1 has struggled with a chronic back injury but a recent return to form has given the 32-year-old fresh momentum ahead of the US Open.

Day strung together four consecutive top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour through July and August, including tied for fourth at the PGA Championship, before stalling with a missed cut and then 64th placing at the BMW Championship.

He’s taken time to reset and Baker-Finch believes he can put himself right in the conversation at Winged Foot if he can avoid the litany of traps and tests that lurk around its demanding layout.

Baker-Finch, the winner of the British Open in 1991 and now one of golf’s most respected television analysts, has good form when it comes to picking winners at Winged Foot. When it was last held there in 2006, he tipped another Australian, Geoff Ogilvy, to salute, and he did just that.

« I was doing the TV and the week before, I said ‘watch out for Ogilvy’ because of the way he was playing and the type of course it was, » Baker-Finch said. « He proved me right.

« The big thing there with the Aussies is it’s really tough … and the Aussies usually do pretty well on tough courses: narrow fairways, very thick rough, tree-lined, which is consistent to many of our courses back home, and extremely difficult greens. They’re very fast, undulating greens.

Distance counts for so much in the modern game, but Winged Foot will severely punish those that go wide as well as long. That’s why he believes Day, who has pared back his swing to accommodate his back constraints, can be a factor if he plays smart and accurate golf.

« He had those four really good finishes in a row and he was getting his confidence back, » Baker-Finch said. « For me, that was a big thing, because it had been a long time since he’d played that well. Even though he wasn’t back completely, he could go and have a few weeks off, work on his game.

« He’s had a lot of care and he’s been very careful with it; he’s been very patient. I know his doctors and I know he’s been in good hands. Don’t try to be the longest hitter out there any more. Take a leaf out of Tiger’s book … tone it down and swing within yourself.

« The biggest thing these days is strength, speed … athleticism is such a big part of the game. The further you hit the ball, the better. That always helped, but now it’s mandatory. That’s hard for Jason, because he’s been one of the longest and fastest. He’ll have to dial back and be a little more careful.

« I would just tell him to keep it out of the rough. It will be thick and quite demanding. A week of that, practicing out of the rough as well, that severe rough can be quite damaging to the body. It’s the same for everyone, but if you do have a little bit of an issue, keep it out of the rough. »

Day recently split with long-time coach and mentor Col Swatton, but has been speaking with Tiger Woods about swing adjustments and managing back conditions. Woods was almost forced to retire before returning to win another Masters crown in 2019.

« I actually have been talking to Tiger about his swing and what he’s been [through] – I think he has the best swing out there, especially in regards to the iron swing, it’s amazing, » Day said last month.

« He’s gone through some back issues, and I think he’s doing a lot of good things to try and alleviate his pain. »

Baker-Finch said the usual suspects – Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas – are the ones to beat, but he feels like not only Day but some of the other Australian contingent can make their presence felt, including Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith.

« I definitely think so … I think Scotty is playing nicely and is a good frame of mind, » Baker-Finch said. « Leish is a big-time player and has the type of game that is going to suit and Smithy is very good around the greens. You get him on a tough golf course with tough greens, I like his game as well. »

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SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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