DUBLIN, Ohio – Jason Day will tee it up this week at Muirfield Village mere miles away from his nearby Westerville home.
Two months ago, when he walked off the course at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, home was the only place he wanted to be.
Day disclosed to the media in an emotional news conference that his mother, Dening, was fighting cancer and that he was leaving the tournament to be with her for an imminent surgery.
A little more than week later at the Masters, Day said he felt “a lot lighter” after doctors removed at 3 ½-centimeter mass from her left lung that allowed her to avoid chemotherapy.
The situation took its toll on the former world No. 1, who in six starts from the Genesis Open to The Players didn’t finish better than T-22.
But a runner-up finish two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson has Day optimistic that he’s turning the corner and once again finding a balance between his personal and professional lives.
“It was probably the toughest I’ve ever had to go through,” he said Wednesday at the Memorial. “With your body [and an injury] you know what’s going on. Vertigo is the same thing. When it comes to someone that has cancer, and you’re told not to worry about it, but you worry about, it’s difficult to play with that in the back of your mind.
“Because I really didn’t want to be on the golf course. I wanted to be with my mom.”
Day will be surrounded by friends and family this week as he plays his (adopted) hometown event. In eight career starts here, Day has missed the cut three times with a best finish of T-27.
“I’m looking forward to coming out here and trying to change the way I usually play around here,” he said. “This has always been one of the tougher stops for me. Not so much the golf course, itself, but I think it’s a little bit of a hectic week when you’re in town and you only live 25 minutes away. I’m interested to see how things go.”
As the 10-time PGA Tour winner looks to snap a winless drought dating back to last year’s Players, he’s also looking to reshape his body. Day says he is 15 to 20 pounds lighter than he was last year and is concerned by a loss of muscle in his lower body.
“My legs were bigger, very, very big compared to my body,” he said. “I had a lot of power, a lot of strength. And then obviously I was loose up top and I could unwind and hit it long.
“I think I’ve gotten a bit too top-heavy. … The way I was training, I think I was training myself to swing it slower.”