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Jason Day hobbles away from WGC Match Play with a back injury

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Jason Day wins his first match in Austin but it may have come at a steep price as he injures his back during 3-and-2 victory over Graeme McDowell.

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Day has made no secret about his desire to walk in Tiger Woods’ footsteps, but clutching his back and crying out in pain during his 3-and-2 win over Graeme McDowell on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Match Play was certainly not what he had in mind.

Day’s chances of winning the Masters in two weeks may have taken a big hit when he limped off Austin Country Club with a back injury and headed straight inside for some therapeutic help.

"It’s really hard to play with searing pain in both sides of your lower back," Day, who eschewed an on-air Golf Channel interview, told James Corrigan. "I’m really struggling. My back has seized up and I need to get inside right away for treatment and see what’s wrong."

Day was scheduled to meet Thongchai Jaidee on Thursday afternoon in his second match. While his agent Bud Martin released a statement Wednesday night that his client was readying for Thursday’s match, the world No. 2 may decide to pack it in to save himself for Augusta.

"Jason tweaked his back on hole No. 15 and had some work done post-round," said Martin. "He is pleased with the outcome of the match and is getting prepared to play tomorrow."

For sure, Day can’t seem to catch a break, health-wise. In addition to dealing with back issues in the past, he has had his share of other nagging injuries -- none so noxious as the severe bouts of vertigo that plagued him during last year’s US Open.

Wednesday’s problem cropped up late in his match with McDowell, and it was all too familiar a sight for anyone who follows Woods. Indeed, in a scene eerily similar to several involving his idol and mentor, Day dropped his club, clutched his back and emitted a painful "Ah" after hitting his drive into a fairway bunker from the 16th tee.

Day escaped the sand but resembled Old Man Tiger as he gingerly struggled down the hill to the trap. He hobbled to the green and was doubled over in pain before going to one knee as McDowell finished up.

Fortunately for Day, he was able to par the 570-yard 16th and end his on-course misery. And that was after he had been striping the ball with apparent ease, including a humongous 360-yard tee shot that drove the par-4 fifth hole.

"He was hitting it 350 (yards) all day and seemed fine to me," McDowell told Corrigan after his defeat. "But he was obviously in distress on that last hole we played."

Amazingly, it was just last week at Bay Hill that Day recounted how Woods -- via inspirational and instructional text messages -- helped him win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He could never have imagined that just days later he would be facing a situation like the one the sidelined 14-time major champion has been dealing with since he injured his own back in 2014.