Shades of Tiger in Day's hot streak

World No. 1 golfer Jason Day's three-year-old son Dash enjoying the attention as much as him after the final round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Weekend scores 73 and 71 were enough to give the Australian a four-shot victory after open
World No. 1 golfer Jason Day's three-year-old son Dash enjoying the attention as much as him after the final round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Weekend scores 73 and 71 were enough to give the Australian a four-shot victory after opening with a scintillating round of 63. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Players C'ship win is 7th in 17 starts and third of year, cementing the Aussie's No. 1 status

PONTE VEDRA BEACH (Florida) • Rickie Fowler's surge towards last year's Players Championship title offered a scintillating storyline which will prove a regular source of reference.

That this year's version was dull in comparison owed everything to the skill and mental fortitude of one man.

Jason Day's triumph on Sunday, his third of this year, was never in doubt. Maybe it was sealed from the moment the Australian golfer signed for an opening round of 63.

He joins his compatriots Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Greg Norman (1994) and Adam Scott (2004) in claiming the PGA Tour's marquee competition.

For Day, who won by four shots with a 273 total, the plaudits keep on rolling in.

"Jason's run is Tiger-esque," said Scott. "I try to imagine how good Tiger felt just playing, five years into his pro career having won 50 events. Imagine how you'd feel confidence-wise.

"Jason must be kind of feeling something like that at the moment and that's an incredibly nice way to walk out on the golf course... He's got that kind of unbeatable look about him."

World No. 2 Jordan Spieth, who vacated the top spot for Day recently, weighed in on Twitter, complimenting his fellow competitor.

And former world No. 1 and 1999 Players Championship winner David Duval said Day was in a class of his own.

Yes, the Sunday atmosphere at Sawgrass was noticeably tame but that is to the credit of Day. He did not want to be embroiled in any kind of battle and duly was not.

His grip on his world No. 1 ranking is now vice-like. That scenario appeared inconceivable even towards the end of last season when Spieth, who won the Masters and US Open, was laughing in the face of convention.

Spieth, Rory McIlroy and the rest are in frantic pursuit of Day, who has a remarkable record of seven wins from 17 starts since late July.

Three of those successes - the US PGA Championship, WGC Matchplay and now the Players - have arrived in illustrious events.

By comparison, Woods won seven times in a row in 2006-07. And the American has 79 career wins on tour, while 28-year-old Day, for all his brilliance, has 10.

"I don't think you can ever put Jason in Tiger's league right now," said American veteran Ken Duke, 47, who tied for third on Sunday. "Jason's playing great. Jordan (Spieth) had a wonderful year last year. Tiger is Tiger. I think that's enough said about that. He set the bar and his stats show it."

Day began Sunday with a four-shot lead. That halved, but very briefly, as the 28-year-old reached the turn in 38. He required a 12-foot putt for bogey after regressing into the realms of a 12-handicapper when chipping around the green at the ninth hole.

The Australian gathered his thoughts before making birdie at the 10th and collected further shots at the 12th and 16th to shoot 71 and win the tournament at 15 under.

Spieth, who missed the cut, was particularly impressed with Day's six-foot bogey putt at the ninth hole.

"JDay bogey putt on 9 was possibly most underrated shot of the day. Gathered emotions knocked it in and led to a clutch back nine. Great win!" he tweeted.

Kevin Chappell, who has not won on the PGA Tour, closed with a 69 for solo second, earning him spots in the US Open and British Open.

Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Colt Knost and Duke - the world No. 495 - shared third on 278.

Without being overly disrespectful, the calibre of players closest to Day during round four made matters even easier for him.

World No. 3 McIlroy's Sunday hope was always a vain one. The four-time Major champion played the front nine in 34 but stumbled on the turn for home, ending with a 70 for a 281 aggregate and share of 12th.

"There's good stuff in there and there's too many wasted shots," said the Northern Irishman, offering what has been a recurring sentiment. "So that's what I need to try and cut out going forward."

Fowler, despite missing the cut, was on hand to congratulate Day behind the 18th green. This is not yet Day's era but unquestionably it is his time.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2016, with the headline 'Shades of Tiger in Day's hot streak'. Print Edition | Subscribe