Jason Day can’t wait to get to the US Masters after claiming the biggest win of his career in an epic World Golf Championships Match Play final.
The 26-year-old Australian laid to rest demons from a string of near-misses in big events when he overcame a late rally – and some truly extraordinary saves – by young Frenchman Victor Dubuisson to prevail with a birdie at the 23rd hole at Dove Mountain in Arizona.
Jason Day claims World Match Play title
Jason Day wins the World Match Play title on the 23rd hole of the final against Victor Dubuisson at Dove Mountain.
The win in the elite 64-man event rockets Day from No.11 to a career-high No.4 in the world rankings – behind Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson – and gives him a three-year exemption on the US PGA Tour.
More importantly, it’s fuelled his belief that he can take the final step to become a major championship winner after three runner-up finishes – at the 2011 Masters, 2011 US Open and 2013 US Open.
While it was only Day’s second US PGA Tour victory, following his 2010 H.P.Byron Nelson Championship success, his recent form is impressive. Having claimed the World Cup at Royal Melbourne last November, he has two wins and a second place (Torrey Pines) in his past six starts.
His next crack at the majors comes in April at the Masters, where he was third behind winner Scott last year. ‘‘It’s no secret I’d like to win there after coming so close,’’ Day said. ‘‘Now I want to see how far I can take this. I’ve been sick of not winning and it took me nearly four years, but I got my second [US tour] win finally and the hard work has paid off.
‘‘Hopefully from here on, as long as I keep working hard and I want it as much as this, the floodgates will open and I’ll win a lot more.’’
Having beaten Rickie Fowler in his morning semi-final, Day knew he should have clinched the final against the gritty Dubuisson earlier as he held a 2-up lead through 16holes. But his sheer determination won through against any fears of another near-miss.
Dubuisson rallied with consecutive birdies to send the match to extra holes and then made two stunning recovery shots from rocky, desert lies on the 19th and 20th holes before finally succumbing on the 23rd when Day holed a 1.2-metre birdie putt. ‘‘Those two shots were amazing,’’ Dubuisson told AP. ‘‘I just played it like I had nothing to lose ... I made two very good ups and downs.’’
Day said he was amazed at the Frenchman’s ability to recover during the extra holes.
‘‘At that time, you’re just thinking, like, do I need to just hand him the trophy now after those two shots?
‘‘I kept shaking my head because there was a couple of times there where I thought he was absolutely dead – the tournament was mine,’’ Day told AP. ‘‘Vic, man, he has a lot of guts.
‘‘He has a great short game – straight out of the cactus twice. ... We’re going to see a lot of him for years to come.
‘‘There was so much pressure on him. And he does it again. I’ve never wanted something so bad in my life. But for a second there, I didn’t think it was going to happen.
‘‘In golf you will win some and choke some and hopefully you win more than choke. I just kept on telling myself I’m not going to stop until I achieve it and I’ll find a way to win.’’
The win ticked off one of Day’s goals for the year – to break into the world top five – and he’s not stopping there. ‘‘Ultimately, my goal ever since I was a kid was to become the No.1 player in the world and there’s only three other guys ranked higher than me, so I’m very excited.’’
Anna Nordqvist has completed a two shot pillar-to-post win at LPGA Thailand, holding off a dramatic late challenge from world No.1 Inbee Park.
At the Siam Country Club, Pattaya, Nordqvist, who led the event from the first round, held her nerve to notch her third LPGA title and her first win since 2009.
The Swede finished 15-under with a four round 273 (66-72-67-68), two up from South Korean defending champion Park whose birdie-studded final round 66 was just not enough to claim victory.
AAP, AFP, AP