- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) - By most standards this has been a good year for Jason Day.

He won the Match Play Championship and finished 20th at the Masters.

But to put the season in perspective, Tiger Woods has played more competitive rounds since February than Day has.

The Aussie has missed most of the last three months due to a bad thumb, while Woods is on the shelf for the foreseeable future after back surgery.

After his long layoff, Day can’t wait to tee it up in Thursday’s first round of the Memorial Tournament.

“It was frustrating. It was really frustrating,” Day said of a ligament injury in his left thumb that sidelined him for six weeks after he played in pain at Augusta. “Because everything felt great. My whole body felt great except for one thing - my thumb.”

That appendage not only kept Day, seventh in the world golf rankings, from earning a living but even practicing.

“You can probably get away with maybe a bad back or a bad knee, but if you can’t hold a club, then that’s not fun,” he said.

But now Day - a member of Muirfield Village - will be surrounded by friends, neighbors and family when he finally gets to return to action.

“I went through phases,” he said of the time he killed during his recuperation. “I’d be like very happy during the week and on Sunday I’d be moody because I’d see the guys winning. I guess my wife, Ellie, knew when to come and talk to me and when not to.”

Ellie and the native of Beaudesert, Australia, have found a home in the Columbus area. She is from an hour or so away. So the Days, including son Dash, settled in the suburbs. Now he works on his game on the course that Jack (Nicklaus) built instead of some warmer clime.

“To be able to win in front of Jack and the fans here, it would be obviously a great honor,” the 26-year-old said.

Woods, who has won the Memorial five times, won’t be competing. He called Nicklaus on Wednesday morning, wished him luck and passed along his regrets.

“He said he’s doing well, progressing well, and he’s looking forward to getting back into the game,” said Nicklaus, the Memorial’s founder and host. “He misses it.”

There are still plenty of other candidates to challenge for the title in the 39th Memorial, including defending champion Matt Kuchar, world No. 1 Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, in addition to 2010 Memorial winner Justin Rose.

Story Continues →