It’s supposed to be the most magical place on earth. But for Jason Day, a visit to Disney World was treated like an escape to Witch Mountain.
Among the litany of athlete discretions, a trip to an amusement park would seemingly rank as innocuous. But Day, who took his family to the Orlando destination on Friday, drew a share of social-media backlash. A reaction stemming from Day’s mid-round withdrawal just 24 hours earlier at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Superficially, the optics weren’t great, especially against the backdrop of Day’s description of his back injury – suffering from a tear in his L4-L5 discs, Day said he could barely walk after a practice round the Sunday before the tournament – and his history of tournament drop-outs (Bay Hill was his ninth WD in 236 starts). Conversely, walking with your children is not as demanding as swinging a golf club and competing against the game’s best. And though there are pitfalls associated with a number of endeavours outside the ropes, athletes can’t be expected to live in a plastic bubble.
Speaking to the media overnight, New Zealand time, at TPC Sawgrass, the 31-year-old Australian responded to the outcry generated by his Disney World soiree.
“I don’t care,” Day said in Florida. “Like if people make memes about me, I think a lot of them are funny. I think that – I mean, it’s fine. It is what it is. People trying to be funny and that, I get a good laugh out of it and I’m OK with that. You can tell between people that are being funny and people that are actually trying to – that really hate you.
“It’s unfortunate, but it just reflects what they are as a person, because it means – I don’t have a problem with them, they have a problem with me. So it’s more on them than myself.”
While Day said the best type of response is to “live well and prosper”, he did compare some of the online barbs to bullying.
“I mean, it’s like when you’re going through school and you get bullied at school. I mean I got bullied, I mean, a lot at school, but it’s just words,” Day said. “So you just got to take it on the chin and just get up and go again.
“It’s something that sometimes it’s hard to, when you see someone write something or someone says something to you, you feel like deep down inside you want to defend yourself, but like you’re in a better spot. You know what I mean? You’re walking inside the ropes, you’re playing golf for a living, you’re doing a lot of good things. I’ve got a good family. I’ve got three kids that are healthy and happy at home. I’m in a tremendous spot.
“So I just sometimes it’s hard to bite my tongue, but I got to do as best as I can to, I guess, project what kind of image I’m trying to get across to people, and I’ve got sponsors that put their time and effort into me, so I got to look out for their best interests as well.”
Day went as far as calling the trip therapeutic, mentioning he gets “sad and depressed” when he’s stuck inside with an ailment.
“That’s the biggest thing, I’m not going to be sitting in my bus depressed and especially when the doctors tell me to go and walk, so I’m going to go and make sure that I hang out with my family because I do have a life other than golf,” he said.
Despite the injury, Day is set to play in this week’s Players Championship, saying his back feels fine after getting in 18 holes on Monday. Prior to his WD, Day had finished inside the top-13 in his other five appearances this season, including three top-fives.
Winner of the 2016 Players, Day will tee off at 6:48am on Friday (New Zealand time) alongside Tony Finau and Francesco Molinari.