AUSTIN (United States) • If reaching No. 1 in the golf world represents an impressive enough achievement, the immediate endorsement of that status by way of victory in a high-profile event should afford an extra layer of adulation. In Jason Day's case, it most certainly will.
The Australian will arrive at Augusta National for the Masters on April 7 as the top-ranked player, regardless of what Jordan Spieth produces at this week's Shell Houston Open.
After walking away with the World Golf Championships-Dell Matchplay trophy for a second time in three years on Sunday, Day also took his winning tally to two in as many weeks. Failure of others to stand up and take notice would represent a serious error; Day is suddenly in the form of his life.
The 28-year-old did not earn glory at Austin Country Club the easy way. He saw off Rory McIlroy in a wonderfully entertaining semi-final, during which the pair could claim a better-ball score of nine under par. Day rolled in a putt from 13 feet on the final green to take the match by a hole.
The clear and present danger to the PGA Championship winner thereafter was obvious. Day, it was feared, might have expended too much energy and focus during the battle with the four-time Major winner to be in peak condition to face Louis Oosthuizen. That sense was endorsed within a hole of the final, as Oosthuizen moved one up.
GETTING EVERYTHING RIGHT
I feel good. But I can't get complacent with how I'm playing right now. It would be great to win Augusta but I've got to make sure I get in and do the little things that count towards the big picture.
JASON DAY, world No. 1 golfer, on his prospects of winning next week's US Masters in Augusta.
Day's response was worthy of his status. He was three up by the turn, a position from which Oosthuizen could never recover.
Arguably no other player could have either. The ultimate margin of victory was 5&4, which just about illustrated the imperious nature of Day's Sunday display.
If he repeats this in Georgia, hold on to your hats. The only legitimate source of frustration for the 28-year-old is that more than a week has to pass before the Masters begins. "It feels great to do this. I just kept rolling on from last week," he said, before returning to the back problems which threatened to undermine his tournament.
"It's really tough. A lot of people don't realise that I get here two or three hours before my tee time, try and get therapy and I'm there like another hour after my rounds trying to get therapy. I'm in between rounds trying to get therapy. It was a little tight late on in the week, but for the most part it really didn't affect me too much over the weekend.
"I feel good. But I can't get complacent with how I'm playing right now. It would be great to win Augusta but I've got to make sure I get in and do the little things that count towards the big picture. "
World No. 3 McIlroy will go into the Masters without a victory this year, after his bid to retain his WGC Matchplay title was ended by Day.
The Northern Irishman had made no secret of wanting a win under his belt before attempting to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in completing the career Major sweep at Augusta.
"I thought it was a good-quality match," McIlroy said of his semi-final loss. "I feel like I played well, did not make a bogey out there and I did not hand him (Day) anything, but obviously (I am) disappointed."
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON