GALENA, Ohio — Jason Day is hungry.
No, this is not a metaphorical reference to the winless drought the former World No. 1 has endured since the 2016 Players Championship. It’s 9:30 a.m. on a drizzly Monday, and Day has been tied up with television interviews before his charity golf event, the Brighter Days Foundation Invitational.
Finally, he’s able to break free for breakfast. He moves swiftly along the buffet spread in the spacious dining room at Double Eagle Club, and then he takes a seat next to a familiar face before methodically plowing through scrambled eggs and potatoes, garnished with a healthy glop of ketchup.
The figure to his left, the familiar face, is fellow Australian Colin Swatton, his swing coach and, now, former caddie. Last month at the BMW Championship, Day benched Swatton from his bag. It was a painful decision, replacing the man who has nurtured him as a person and a golfer, who has been like a father to him. But Day wanted to preserve their relationship before it became strained. Swatton’s presence was testament to their fealty to and feelings for each other.
Day provided further proof that the two are in a good place when he responds to a question about parts of his game that require attention as a new PGA Tour season commences.
“Well, getting rid of Col helps …” he began, and the two men burst into laughter.
In town for four days to work with Day on his swing mechanics, Swatton is unable to play in the charity event. Four weeks ago, he nearly lopped off the tops of his first two fingers on his left hand with an electric hedge trimmer doing yard work at his home in Hilton Head, S.C. Had he not been wearing gloves—and he usually doesn’t—he’d have lost both fingers. He was fortunate the injury required only 13 stitches. “A weird kind of luck,” he said.
(By the way, what is it with Aussies and power tools? Recall that Greg Norman nearly lost his hand to a chain saw.)
Last year, Day took the final three months off, sensing burnout and needing to rest an achy back after two hectic and highly successful years that included his first major title at the 2015 PGA Championship and his wire-to-wire Players win in 2016. In all he won eight times in those two seasons while reaching No. 1 in the world.
“I knew I needed the break, to re-energize, and I had done it the year before and I felt great,” he said. “This last year, I shouldn’t have done it. It was too much time off. So now I understand that I need to play.”
So, this fall he is playing. He’ll compete in the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island, South Korea, next week, followed by his first appearance in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. In late November, he’ll go home for the Australian Open and then head to the Bahamas for Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge.
He’ll bring back his mother, Dening, with him from Australia. Or, perhaps, he’ll be dragging her back.
In May, a teary-eyed Day withdrew from the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship after Dening was diagnosed with lung cancer. He found it impossible to concentrate while she awaited surgery. The operation was a success, and a month later she insisted on returning to Queensland and resuming her job.
“She’s stubborn,” Day said with a grin. “We have my people here always communicating with my mom, but she has her own things she wants to do. She likes her independence. But I’m going to bring her back and makes sure she sees her docs and get her follow-up tests. She’s doing good. It’s a huge relief, because it was hard being on the golf course. I struggled to focus. But it’s something I can feel good about now.”
His year was a victory, if only for saving his mom.