By Steve Keating
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Augusta National is a happy place for many elite golfers and the smell of Azaleas and Georgia pines had a smile back on Jason Day's face on Tuesday as the Australian wrapped up a U.S. Masters practice round.
While it was the type of sun-kissed morning that had everyone from Augusta groundskeepers to Green Jacketed members grinning from ear-to-ear, Day had much more to smile about as he reported his mother Dening was winning her battle with lung cancer and might even make it to the Masters to cheer on her son.
It was a far different Day facing the world's media on Tuesday from the emotionally shattered young man who announced he was pulling out of the WGC-Dell Match Play after a handful of holes last month as tears of despair dripped down his face while he explained he had to go be with his mother.
Certainly it has not been the ideal buildup to the year's first major for Day, dealing with his mother's illness, a sore back and a stalled campaign that has produced just one top-10 finish.
The world number three will consider himself a big winner this week no matter what the result.
"As everyone knows, my mum, she went through a successful surgery on her left lung and she was told by the doctor, don't have to do chemo," a beaming Day told reporters. "I feel kind of a lot lighter in a sense that my mind is not weighing very much heavily on the situation that my mum was going through.
"So to be able to have that happen and then be able to come here and get my mind off things, is quite nice."
A return to the Masters has been a form of therapy for Day who has gained comfort from sharing his pain and insecurities with his wider golfing family.
"I feel like everyone is my family now because I've been hurt in front of you guys, I've cried in front of you guys now, practically everything," said Day. "The only thing I haven't done is showered in front of you guys yet.
"I'm in a really good situation being able to sit up here in front of you guys and be able to talk about the situations that I'm going through and to be able to tell you honestly and truthfully from what's coming inside my heart."
Not all Masters memories are happy ones.
Day has had his share of heartache at Augusta National finishing runner-up in 2011 and letting a two-shot lead with three holes to play slip away in 2013 and watching compatriot Adam Scott become the first Australian to don the Green Jacket.
But after recent events a reflective and philosophical Day was better able to put his career and life into perspective.
"We're very selfish in our ways," said Day. "You just forget that maybe you should have spent a little bit more time with your family and spending more time with them and just enjoying your life.
"We're all going to go at some point and we have to enjoy ourselves while we're here."
(Editing by Andrew Both)