ATLANTA – “Four more days,” Colin Swatton smiled weakly as he prepared for Round 1 at the Tour Championship on Thursday.
It was easy to figure that the affable swing coach/caddie was talking about his man Jason Day, who has endured a litany of injuries this season and withdrew from last week’s BMW Championship with an ailing back, but as Swatton limped down East Lake’s first fairway it was clear the pep talk was internal.
Swatton tweaked his back before Day teed off and initially debated whether he would be able to work the opening round.
“I told him, ‘Look, if you get out there and you pull out, I’m going to be very pissed,’” Day smiled. “I said to take the day off, get some rest because if you just miss today and you feel better tomorrow then I’ve got you for the next three days.”
Swatton made it eight holes before the pain led him to relinquish a bag he’s had on his shoulders since Day turned professional in 2006. He was replaced by Day’s mental coach, Jason Goldsmith, and the 10th-ranked player on the FedEx Cup point list played his final 12 holes in 3 under par to grab a share of third place, a shot off the lead held by Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel.
In a twist to the old adage “beware the injured player,” having to play his first professional round without Swatton, whom he met at the Kooralbyn International School in Queensland when he was a teenager, forced Day to focus more than perhaps he normally would.
Goldsmith, who began working with Day about a year and a half ago, knows golf and he even began his career in golf looping at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif., but on the grandest stage he admitted he was out of his element.
“I was just trying to not do something wrong,” Goldsmith said. “I was expecting it because we knew Col’s back was sore. I knew it was just a matter of time.”
Day was hopeful Swatton would be able to return to his bag on Friday but said if not Goldsmith is available, although he made it clear it would not be a permanent change.
“(Goldsmith) didn’t know what to do, really,” Day laughed. “He had the yardage book. He’s coming over to me and he looked official . . . (Swatton) is going to be on the bag until he wants to fire me.”