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Jason Day back after thumb injury

DUBLIN, Ohio -- After a long layoff, Jason Day can't wait to tee it up in Thursday's first round of the Memorial Tournament.

The Aussie has missed most of the past three months due to a bad thumb, after winning the Match Play Championship and finishing 20th at the Masters.

"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 kept Day, seventh in the world golf rankings, not only from earning a living, but also from 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.

However, now Day -- a member of Muirfield Village, site of the tournament -- will be surrounded by family, friends and neighbors 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. Now Day works on his game on the course that Jack Nicklaus built instead of in some warmer climate.

"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.

Tiger Woods, who has won the Memorial five times, won't be competing and is on the shelf for the foreseeable future after back surgery. 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.