Defending champion Jason Day tearfully withdrew from the Dell Technologies Match Play after six holes Wednesday so he could be with his mother when she has surgery for lung cancer. Day said his mother, Dening, was diagnosed in Australia at the start of the year and told she had 12 months to live. He brought her to Ohio in the last month for more tests, hopeful that surgery would lead to a chance for a recovery.
“It’s really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she’s gone through,” Day said after taking a moment to clear his voice and wipe tears from his face. “I’m glad I brought her over here. And it’s been really hard to play golf lately this year. It’s been very, very emotional, as you can tell. I’ve already gone through it once with my dad, and I know how it feels. And it’s hard enough to see another one go through it.”
His father, Alvin, died of stomach cancer when Day was 12.
Day said he went through a wild streak after his father died until he was sent off to a golf academy, where under the teaching and mentoring of Colin Swatton, he rose to be a PGA champion and reach No. 1 in the world.
His mother took out a second mortgage on the house and borrowed money from relatives to pay for his schooling. After winning the PGA Championship in 2015, Day recalled watching her cut the lawn with a knife because they couldn’t afford a lawn mower and using a kettle for hot water to bathe. He once shopped for used clothes at a store where for $5 he could stuff as much as he could into a bag.
“I just need some time away with her to make sure that everything goes well, because this has been very, very tough for me,” Day said. “So I’m going to do my best and try and be there the best I can for her because she is the reason that I’m playing golf today.”
He did not take questions, leaving the press center for his car with his wife, Ellie.
Day lives near Columbus, Ohio, where he met his wife when he was on the Nationwide Tour as a teenager trying to get his PGA Tour card.
His agent, Bud Martin, said Day’s mother was at The James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State. He said the prognosis is better than what she had gotten in Australia, and doctors now hope that the cancer can be managed.
“I kidded his mother a few days ago on the phone,” Martin said. “I said, `The news seems to be getting better. I want to make certain you are there during his Hall of Fame speech.’ She loves it. It’s important to her to support him.”
Day spoke to the media before leaving to avoid any speculation about his own health. A year ago at the Match Play, he tweaked his back in the opening round and wasn’t sure he would be able to continue. Instead, he won his next six matches to capture this World Golf Championships event for the second time.
He said the mass in his mother’s lung was 3 to 4 centimeters. The surgery is scheduled for Friday.
“I’m hoping for a speedy recovery for her, and we can get this behind us and she can live a long life,” Day said.
He was not expected to play again until the Masters, where he would be considered one of the top favorites. Martin said the only reason he came to Austin for the Match Play was that he felt a responsibility to the fans, and to his mother.
“Truthfully, the most important thing in her world is him playing golf and being happy,” Martin said.
Day has not won since The Players Championship last year. He was No. 1 in the world for nearly a year until Dustin Johnson overtook him a month ago. Day started this year with only one top 10, a tie for fifth at Pebble Beach, in five tournaments.
Martin said he has not spoken much about his mother and her ordeal.
“Jason is a gutty guy,” Martin said. “You don’t accomplish what he’s accomplished on the golf course without having resilience.”