AUGUSTA – Third-ranked Jason Day, overjoyed at his mother's progress after lung cancer surgery 10 days ago, yearns to win the Masters this week with her watching at Augusta National.
The 28-year-old Australian, who won his first major title at the 2015 PGA Championship, withdrew from the World Golf Championships Match-Play event two weeks ago to be with his mother, Dening, as she faced a five-hour left lung operation in Columbus, Ohio.
"Mom told me go out and just play. Unfortunately I can't think like that," Day said. "I felt selfish being out there. I wanted to be with my mom making sure the surgery goes well. I felt between two places. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was torn... I just knew I had to be back home."
Day learned Monday that his mother would not need chemotherapy and that the woman who bolstered his golf dreams can watch him this weekend at the Masters for the first time, a perfect scenario to win the green jacket he has long sought.
"I was very emotional when I won my first major. You can just multiply that by 100," Day said about what winning Sunday would mean.
"It would be great to have my mom here. She's never had the opportunity to come over here before. It gets me excited to think about it, about the possibility of winning it."
Day's father, Alvin, died of stomach cancer when his son was only 12. Dening took out a mortgage on the family home to finance Jason's tuition at a golf academy, her son inspired by seeing Tiger Woods win the 1997 Masters in record-setting fashion.
"She is the reason why I'm playing professional golf now," Day said Tuesday. "She sacrified a lot. So did my sisters. I owe everything to her. She's the one who got me from where I was to where I am now."
Day's joy at his mother's improvement has put worries of an inadequate Masters tuneup out of his mind.
"She doesn't have to go through chemo, which is really, really exciting stuff," Day said. "I'm very pleased, very happy with how things have progressed."
Day said he went two weeks without picking up a club while with his family.
"I'm a little bit under prepared to be honest," Day said. "Maybe it's a good thing. I'm just going to do the best I can."
Day practiced from Friday through Monday at Augusta National as he waited for news of his mother's condition.
Masters Monday: swingOIL, practice, family, train, play. REPEAT.
"Ultimately I think I still would have played, but if it had come back another way my thinking would have been elsewhere," Day said.
"I needed to make sure my mom was OK. Once I knew the surgery went well, I was OK to calm down.
"Cancer, it affects so many people. It's a very painful thing to go through. You don't really expect you or your loved ones to go through it. We're very pleased to get through this stage."
Day feels relief on the course now after before feeling sad about his mother some days and guilty others for not feeling sadder.
"This week I feel lighter, feel refreshed in a way. All the hard stuff is off my mind. I can kind of get back to physically just focusing on golf," Day said. "If you don't have that it's difficult to compete against the best players in the world."
Day's mother wants to return to Australia after the Masters.
"She's worried about work," he said. "She wanted to get back to it. Even before surgery and after surgery she wants to get back home. I'm like, 'What are you thinking?'
"It was tough just getting her over here. She was coughing up blood for three months without telling me. That's how stubborn she is."
A lesson to seize the day isn't lost on Day.
"I know we take it for granted. Golfers as a whole, we're very selfish. We need to be selfish to get better at our craft," he said.
"But when you sit there and think about it... Maybe you should have spent more time with your family. We're all going to go some time."