Players Championship 2016: Jason Day eases to four-shot win
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 10/05/17 11:49am
Jason Day joined an elite club to have posted multiple wire-to-wire victories in the same season as a composed one-under 71 was enough to claim a comfortable four-shot victory at the Players Championship.
Day was uncharacteristically nervy on the greens on the front nine at TPC Sawgrass in Florida on Sunday as he dropped shots at the sixth and ninth to turn in 38 with his overnight four-shot lead halved, but he shut the door on the field with birdies at 10 and 12 before cruising to the finish line.
The Australian led from start to finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, and his win at the course in Ponte Vedra Beach emulates the feats of Tiger Woods (twice), Tom Watson and Johnny Miller in going wire to wire twice in the same year.
Kevin Chappell won the race for second, while Rory McIlroy got to within three of the leader when he picked up his third birdie of the round at the 11th only to see his challenge scuppered when he pulled his tee shot into water at the short 13th.
Day appeared on course for a procession when he gouged a wedge to six feet from thick rough at the first, but he missed the birdie chance and another one went begging from inside 10 feet at the par-five second.
The world No 1 then had his short-game prowess to thank for bailing him out of trouble with sublime up and downs at three and five, but he could not save par at the next after finding a fairway bunker with his drive.
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The 28-year-old scrambled a par at the next as he holed from 15 feet, but he lost concentration at the ninth when he duffed three straight chips from the rough to the right of the narrow green and eventually rolled in a testing six-foot putt to limit the damage to a bogey six.
But he regrouped and found the heart of the 10th green with his second before carding his first birdie of the day with a confident 18-foot putt, and he rolled in another from similar range at the 12th to restore his four-stroke advantage.
And with nobody able to mount a significant charge to put his lead under threat, Day converted a delightful pitch for another birdie at the 16th and negotiated the final two holes with cast-iron pars to close on 15 under for the tournament.
Day's win also makes him only the fifth man to have won The Players, a major and a WGC after Woods, Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer and his fellow Australian Adam Scott.
With scoring conditions significantly easier than Saturday, Chappell emerged from the pack to finish runner-up on his own after he recovered from a front-nine 37 - which included three bogeys in five holes - with a flawless inward 32.
Chappell began his move when he chipped in for eagle at the long 11th, and he followed a birdie at 16 with a superb wedge to three feet at the penultimate hole before his final chance to pressure Day went begging when he missed the target from 10 feet at the last.
Round of the day went to youngster Justin Thomas, who cruised to the turn in 32 and picked up three further shots over the final five holes to return a 65 which gave him the early clubhouse lead on 10 under, lifting him 20 places up the leaderboard.
Thomas had to settle for a share of third with 2012 champion Matt Kuchar and fellow Americans Colt Knost and Ken Duke, while former Ryder Cup star Francesco Molinari emerged as the leading European after a 72 left him at nine under.
Graeme McDowell was a further stroke adrift as he birdied the final three holes to salvage a 69, but his compatriot McIlroy was left to rue his big mistake at the 13th which halted his momentum.
The world No 3 made well-crafted birdies at the second and ninth and kept a bogey off his card on the outward nine, and he picked up his third shot of the day at the third par-five to move into third place on eight under.
But he tugged his tee-shot into the stream to the left of the 13th green and did well to get up and down from the drop zone for bogey, and a wild drive at the 15th led to another dropped shot before a closing birdie after a precise wedge to six feet at the last capped a closing 70 - seven under for the tournament.