Golf

Day withdraws, McIlroy and Spieth lose

Australian star Jason Day made a tearful withdrawal from the World Golf Championship-Dell Match Play yesterday morning (Singapore time) to be with his cancer-stricken mother while Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth lost their openers.

Defending champion Day broke down in tears in Austin, Texas, after withdrawing from his first-round match against American Pat Perez after only six holes at Austin Country Club before later revealing his personal anguish.

World No. 2 McIlroy, seeking his second title in three seasons, lost 2&1 to Denmark's Soren Kjeldsen and Japan's Hideto Tanihara downed fifth-seeded Speith 4&2, while top-ranked Dustin Johnson defeated fellow American Webb Simpson 5&3.

The defeats do not end the title hopes for McIlroy and Spieth thanks to group-stage play conducted through tomorrow morning instead of the typical match-play bracket format.

Day, 29, said he was pulling out to be with his mother, Dening Day, who is facing surgery today to remove a cancerous growth from her lungs.

"She's going in for surgery this Friday and it's really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she's going through," said a teary Day.

"It's been really hard to play golf. It has been very, very emotional as you can tell," added Day, whose father Alvin died of cancer in 1999 when the golfer was 11.

"I've already gone through it once with my dad and I know how it feels.

"It's hard enough to see another one go through it as well. I just need some time away with her to make sure everything goes well because she's the reason that I'm playing golf today. Family's first."

Day was in Group 3 with fellow Aussie Marc Leishman, who opened with a 3&2 win over England's Lee Westwood.

This marks the third year of group play to open the event, ensuring top names no longer risk being ousted on day one. Knockout play opens with 16 group winners on Sunday morning.

McIlroy was 1-up with five holes remaining after three birdies in a row to win holes, but Kjeldsen made four consecutive birdies to seize the victory, his last three approaches landing within four feet of the cup.

McIlroy said: "I played well. If I had played anyone else, I might have won.

"Soren played great. I think I have to give him credit.

"He played really, really well from the first hole."

Tanihara, making his debut in the event, sank a 15-foot birdie putt to go 1-up after seven holes, then won the 10th by sinking his approach and took three of the next holes to seal the victory over Spieth, who couldn't manage a birdie past the first hole.

"I knew if I brought my 'A' game, I could probably compete against him," Tanihara said.

"So just happy to get this win." - AFP