Jason Day shows some ma­jor met­tle and wins the PGA Cham­pi­onship

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Given a third straight chance to fi­nally win a ma­jor, Jason Day promised a fight to the fin­ish in the PGA Cham­pi­onship.

Turns out the big­gest fight was to hold back the tears.

Wor­ried that this year might turn out to be a ma­jor fail­ure, Day never gave Jor­dan Spi­eth or any­one else a chance Sun­day. He de­liv­ered a record-set­ting per­for­mance at Whistling Straits that brought him a ma­jor cham­pi­onship he started to won­der might never hap­pen.

Day was in tears be­fore he even tapped in for par and a 5-un­der 67 for a three-shot vic­tory. He sobbed on the shoul­der of Colin Swat­ton, his cad­die and long­time coach who res­cued Day as a 12-year-old strug­gling to over­come the death of his fa­ther.

And then came high praise from Spi­eth in the scor­ing trailer when golf’s new No. 1 player told him, “There’s noth­ing I could do.”

“I didn’t ex­pect I was go­ing to cry,” Day said. “A lot of emo­tion has come out be­cause I’ve been so close so many times and fallen short. To be able to play the way I did to­day, es­pe­cially with Jor­dan in my group, I could tell that he was the fa­vorite. Just to be able to fin­ish the way I did was amaz­ing.”

Three shots ahead with three holes to play on a course with trou­ble ev­ery­where, Day blasted a drive down the fair­way on the par-5 16th and hit a tow­er­ing 4-iron into 20 feet. He bit his lower lip, swat­ted his cad­die on the arm, know­ing his work was al­most done.

The two-putt birdie put him at 20-un­der par, and two clos­ing pars gave him the record to par in ma­jors, break­ing by one shot the 19 un­der of Tiger Woods at St. An­drews in the 2000 Bri­tish Open. Day fin­ished at 20-un­der 268, not know­ing un­til it was over that it was a record.

What re­ally mat­tered was that shiny Wana­maker Tro­phy at his side.

He shared the 54- hole lead at the U.S. Open and the Bri­tish Open and had to watch some­one else celebrate.

“Not be­ing able to fin­ish, it would have been tough for me men­tally to re­ally kind of come back from that,” Day said. “Even though I feel like I’m a pos­i­tive per­son, I think that in the back of my mind some­thing would have trig­gered and I would have gone, ‘Maybe I can’t re­ally fin­ish it off.’

“It felt like I was men­tally and phys­i­cally grind­ing it out as hard as I could,” he said. “I wasn’t go­ing to stop fight­ing un­til it over.”

Spi­eth gave it his best shot, but even the Mas­ters and U.S. Open cham­pion could tell what he was up against the way the 27-yearold Aus­tralian pow­ered one drive af­ter another and didn’t let any­one closer than the two-shot lead with which he started the fi­nal round.

“He played like he’d won seven or eight ma­jors,” Spi­eth said. “He took it back. He wailed it. It was a stripe show.”

Spi­eth has the great­est con­so­la­tion pos­si­ble. With his run­nerup fin­ish, he re­placed Rory McIl­roy at No. 1 in the world.

“This is as easy a loss as I’ve ever had be­cause I felt that I not only couldn’t do much about it as the round went on, I also ac­com­plished one of my life­long goals in the sport of golf. That will never be taken away from me now. I’ll al­ways be a No. 1 player in the world.”

Spi­eth set a record of his own. By clos­ing with a 68, he set a record by play­ing the four ma­jors in 54-un­der par, break­ing by one the mark that Woods set in 2000. The dif­fer­ence is that Woods won two ma­jors by a com­bined 23 shots.

That also speaks to the depth of golf in this gen­er­a­tion, and Day is the latest ex­am­ple. He moved to No. 3 in the world, mean­ing the top three in the world are all un­der 27 and have com­bined to win five of the last six ma­jors.

“As long as I am healthy, I feel like I’m go­ing to be there a long time,” Day said. “I still want to ac­com­plish that No. 1 goal of mine, which is to be the best player in the world. I’m still mo­ti­vated and still very hun­gry for that, even af­ter this win.”

Branden Grace of South Africa had another mis­take on the back nine in a ma­jor that cost him. Grace was tied for the lead at the U.S. Open when he hit his tee shot on the rail­road tracks and out-of-bounds at Cham­bers Bay. This time, he was two shots be­hind when he went long of the 10th green and made dou­ble bo­gey. He closed with a 69 and fin­ished third, five shots be­hind.

Justin Rose got within two shots un­til mak­ing a dou­ble bo­gey for the third straight day. He closed with a 70 and fin­ished fourth.

Day faced enor­mous pres­sure of hav­ing a lead for the first time go­ing into the fi­nal round, try­ing to avoid be­com­ing the first player since the PGA Cham­pi­onship went to stroke play in 1958 to have at least a share of the 54-hole lead in three straight ma­jors with­out win­ning.

It sure didn’t show, even if he felt it ev­ery step of the way.

“I knew to­day was go­ing to be tough, but I didn’t re­al­ize how tough it was go­ing to be,” Day said. “I learned a lot about my­self, be­ing able to fin­ish the way I did. The ex­pe­ri­ences that I’ve had in the past with pre­vi­ous ma­jor fin­ishes has def­i­nitely helped me pre­pare my­self for a mo­ment like this.”

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