Jason Day took some time out of his holiday preparations last week to talk about Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, winning majors and most importantly to him, his mother, Dening. After dealing with injuries that have hindered his success on the course, and his mother's health problems off the course, he sounds as optimistic as ever about his 2021 and beyond.
"Hopefully, it’s a little bit more positive than what I’ve had in 2020. Obviously I’m going to do a lot of work in the off weeks. The holidays are coming up and there’s some time to spend with the family which I will do, but I’m also looking forward to working on my swing, trying to do a little bit of change for my back. And then also start working with a new coach so that’ll be fun. Hopefully, 2021 is a lot more positive, impactful year for me moving forward. Trying to get the new decade off to a new, good start."
But first, Day has to get through the holidays. Being a successful professional golfer, they're nothing like they were when he was growing up in Australia.
"We were kind of on the poorer side of things when we were growing up with me and my sisters. My dad died when I was 12. So it was just a single mom looking after three kids. We had to sacrifice a little bit to get by and we’re fortunate enough to be able to have the Thanksgivings and Christmases that we do now. I’m very fortunate to be able to do that for my children."
"With the down time for us in golf and we’re looking forward to, especially with the condensed season that we had. I’m looking forward to spending time with the family. We just recently found out that we have a fourth on the way. And then my mother’s over here as well so she’s able to spend Thanksgiving with us and it’s just a nice time to be able to spend quality time with the family and my mom."
Spending the holidays with his mother is especially important after she was diagnosed with stage four non-small cell lung cancer in 2017. Dening was given 12 months to live.
"It was quite shocking to hear the news at the start due to the fact that she had never smoked a day in her life. She was very active. She was a very healthy person and for her to to all of a sudden get lung cancer was was quite surprising to me, so it was very difficult for me to be on the golf course. I wanted to make sure that I was with my mom. We flew her across to America so I could be there for her and take care of her. And that's when we discovered biomarker testing and it helped complete her diagnosis. It identified specific drivers that caused her cancer to grow and spread and we could target her specific cancer with a targeted therapy for her and to this day she's feeling great."
Now Day is trying to spread the word about the testing that helped save his mother's life.
"We were partnered with AstraZeneca for this campaign about biomarker testing and it's been an absolute honor to be able to partner with AstraZeneca through this campaign and they've been a huge help for us um and my mother specifically because of her cancer."
"For anyone that is currently going through stage four non-small cell lung cancer, they can learn more about biomarker testing and they'll be able to find out more information. My mom is doing much better and she's active and she's she's healthy and it's been a unique kind of a journey. We're glad that we're kind of on the other side of it right now and and she's still living with cancer, but she's she's feeling healthy."
As for Day's health, things are looking good as the 2021 season approaches. He's been working on his swing with a new coach and hopes to get the decade off to a good start.
"There’s no problem with my back or my neck or anything like that. Obviously, you’d like to play a little bit better at Augusta. It's my favorite tournament of the year. Dustin Johnson’s been playing some tremendous golf as of late and actually through his whole career has been very, very consistent that way. A very complete package, but we’re only four months or so from Augusta which is another chance at winning it all. I just gotta stay positive, keep moving forward and hopefully it’ll fall my way soon."
In order to move forward and win, Day has to compete with an ever-growing list of talented young players.
"I’m definitely one of the older guys now unfortunately, but that’s okay. I’m still, I still feel young. There are some good players. I’m very impressed with Collin Morikawa. I think he’s got a lot of potential. Matt Wolff has definitely got a lot of potential as well. Collin won the PGA [Championship] this year. Matt has competed and played well in major championships as of late and has one on tour. There’s a bunch of young guys out there right now right now that are playing some tremendous golf. Jon Rahm is up there."
Like everyone else, Day also has Bryson DeChambeau on his mind. Part of working on his swing - and staying in his ideal playing weight - is also adding some length to his game.
"I think Bryson is a tremendous golfer in regards to that he’s changed his game and actually evolved with it. Whereas some guys who’ve chased distance beforehand have never really. It’s never really panned out for them but he’s done an amazing job with it and he’s the longest on tour right now. Everyone’s talking about him a lot but at the end of the day the guy that won Augusta is still long. He’s not the longest, but he’s got a full package in regards to his all-around game so I still think even though you can be long, you still have to have an all-around package in regards to your game. So my focus this year is maybe gain a little bit of distance, but just trying to put all the pieces together and put that puzzle together, so hopefully it’ll come together and I can start winning a little bit more."
By winning a "a little bit more" Day means everything.
"All four majors. I want the PGA. I need to win three more. There’s always certain markers that you want to hit in regards to how many tournament wins that you want and all that stuff, but to be honest I just gotta try and do the best job I can. I’ve got long-term goals that I want to try and achieve, but it won’t happen if I don’t put the work, time and effort into it so I’ve got to make sure that I’m trying to be the best person I can be every single day to try and accomplish that."
So he has to compete against the younger stars and still has to chase Tiger Woods, who himself is chasing Jack Nicklaus. Day is one of the people who still believes.
"I think it just all depends on his body and then obviously on top of it how much does he want it? Personally, I think it’s on the harder side, but you never put anything past Tiger. I think it’s definitely harder for him to break Jack’s record but I think if everything stopped and we didn’t play golf tomorrow, I think he’s accomplished everything that he’s wanted to accomplish in golf and he’d be fine with that. I know that he wants to try and break it and hopefully he’s healthy enough to at least give it a shot."
It's hard to get more optimistic than that. That's why, like everyone else, Day is looking forward to the end of the pandemic so the real atmosphere can return to PGA courses.
"We’re very fortunate to be able to play on the tour. Very fortunate to be able to still travel and do what we love each and every week, but it was a strange and I think the biggest thing that we’re missing is the fans. I think that’s the one thing that we miss the most because you just feed off the fans so much out there. Especially on Saturdays and Sundays."