Golf: Tearful Jason Day pulls out over ailing mum

An emotional Jason Day at a press conference after withdrawing from the WGC-Dell Matchplay due to his mother's illness.
An emotional Jason Day at a press conference after withdrawing from the WGC-Dell Matchplay due to his mother's illness.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Title holder can't play on after losing 3 of first 6 holes with her due for lung cancer surgery

AUSTIN (Texas) • The last time Jason Day had wept publicly at a golf tournament was on the 18th green at Whistling Straits after securing his first Major victory on his 20th attempt.

He later explained that his tears at the 2015 PGA Championship were brought on by thoughts of the sacrifices that his mother, Dening, and his two sisters had made, so that he could reach the zenith of his sport.

On Wednesday, thoughts of his mother again caused the Australian to cry, but this time they were tears of anguish.

Day, the defending champion of the World Golf Championships (WGC) Matchplay event at Austin Country Club, abruptly conceded his first-round match to American Pat Perez after losing three of the first six holes.

Then the world No. 3 held an emotional news conference to explain why: He said he was having difficulty concentrating on golf because his mother had been found to have lung cancer and was scheduled to have exploratory surgery today in Columbus, Ohio, where the 29-year-old lives with his wife, Ellie, and their two small children.

"It's hard to talk right now," Day said as he faced the news media.

He paused to gather his composure and spoke of diagnosis of terminal cancer his mother had received and the initial prognosis that she might have only 12 months to live.

"It's been really hard to play golf lately," he added.

His father, Alvyn, died of stomach cancer when he was 12.

He brought his 59-year-old mother, who lives outside Brisbane, to the United States this year to have further tests after her cancer was initially diagnosed in Australia.

"It's been very, very emotional, as you can tell," he said, his voice cracking. "I've already gone through it once with my dad. And I know how it feels. It's hard enough to see another one go through it as well."

Day's all-in approach to golf encouraged him to play in tournaments leading up to next month's Masters, the Major that Day has wanted to win more than any other since he was a small child.

In five starts this year, Day, who lost his world No. 1 ranking to Dustin Johnson last month, has one top-10 finish, a tie for fifth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Johnson downed fellow American Webb Simpson 5 and 3 on Wednesday but Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth lost their openers.

World No. 2 McIlroy, seeking his second title in three seasons, lost 2 and 1 to Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen and Japan's Hideto Tanihara defeated fifth-seeded Speith 4 and 2.

The defeats do not end the title hopes of McIlroy and Spieth thanks to group-stage play ending today instead of the typical matchplay bracket format.

McIlroy was 1-up with five holes remaining after three birdies in a row to win holes but Kjeldsen made four consecutive birdies to seize the victory, his last three approaches landing within four feet of the cup.

"I played well," said the Northern Irishman. "If I had played anyone else, I might have won. Soren played great. I think I have to give him credit. He played really, really well from the first hole."

Tanihara, making his debut in the event, sank a 15-foot birdie putt to go 1-up after seven holes, then won the 10th by sinking his approach and took three of the next six holes to seal the victory over Spieth, who could not manage a birdie past the first hole.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Tearful Day pulls out over ailing mum'. Print Edition | Subscribe