Masters 2017: Jason Day returns to golf with solid opening round

Kevin Kaduk
Devil Ball Golf
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/pga/players/7542/" data-ylk="slk:Jason Day">Jason Day</a> laughs with his caddy during Thursday’s Round 1. (Getty Images)
Jason Day laughs with his caddy during Thursday’s Round 1. (Getty Images)

It remains to be seen whether Jason Day’s mother will arrive in Augusta this weekend to watch her son compete for his first green jacket. The Aussie star shot a two-over 74 during Thursday’s windy opening round, not good enough to be atop the leaderboard, but not bad enough to start making alternate weekend plans.

The important thing, though, is that traveling to the famed course remains a possibility for her.

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Day’s round was his first competitive loop since the distraction of his mother’s lung cancer diagnosis caused him to withdraw from his WGC Match Play opener on March 22. Day’s emotional press conference following just six holes of that match against Pat Perez tugged at heart strings across the golf world.

Since then, Dening Day and her family have received tremendous news. Surgery at Ohio State’s James Cancer Center removed the 3 1/2 centimeter mass on her lung and doctors said she does not require chemotherapy. Day said his mind has been a rollercoaster, especially considering Australian doctors only gave his mother a year to live before American doctors gave a much better prognosis.

As a resident of Australia, Dening Day has never seen her son compete in person at the Masters. But as she recuperates as Jason’s home in Ohio, there remains a chance she could make it down for the weekend. Day said the two biggest hurdles are her stamina and stubborn nature as she’s itching to get back to work in Australia.

Day played the Thursday’s front-nine at one-over, then stumbled with a double bogey on No. 11. Back to back birdies on 15 and 16 moved him back closer to even before a bogey on 17 brought him to his final mark for the day. He’s a handful of shots back of everyone not named Charley Hoffman.

How Day performs the rest of the weekend remains to be seen, but his mind is a lot closer to where it usually is during big golf tournaments.

“I just feel a lot lighter, I feel refreshed in a way,” Day said earlier in the week. “All the hard stuff is behind us and we’ve just got to make sure that we’re staying on top of it, and that I can actually get back to kind of physically just kind of focusing on golf even though I know my mom is getting well taken care of now.”

Day has three top-10 finishes in six starts at the Masters, including a T-2 in 2011 and a third-place finish in 2013. Winning this year would hold a lot of significance to him, not only because of his mother, but because he often cites Tiger Woods as one of the main reasons he was drawn to the game. This year is the 20th anniversary of Woods’ landmark win at Augusta.

Day didn’t have to think long when asked on Tuesday if winning on Sunday would produce an emotional response like the one he had after winning the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

“I think that you can just multiply that by a hundred,” Day said. ” .. Two things in my life, Tiger Woods and Augusta National, is why I play golf. And this is my favorite week of the year. It always is.

“To be able to do it this week would be great.”

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