Win number 12 didn’t come easy for Jason Day in Charlotte on Sunday.
And he’s glad it didn’t.
“I had no idea where the ball was going today. My short game just stood the test, which is nice. This is probably one of the best wins I’ve ever had just because of how hard it was today.”
So said Day, moments after a big hug from son Dash, wife Ellie and daughter Lucy.
Day was being pursued hotly by playing partner Nick Watney and 21-year-old rookie Aaron Wise. Twice Day gave them hope, he made back-to-back bogeys on his front nine (five and six) then again on the back (13 and 14) and each time he dug deep and made birdie after his mistakes.
What Day did in the end was turn the dreaded Green Mile into The Red Mile.
With his lead down to one, he smashed a drive at the 16th a whopping 379 yards then flipped a wedge to nine feet. Of course he made it then headed to the 17th, at 230 yards, it was playing as the toughest hole at Quail Hollow Sunday afternoon. All it was for Day was seven-iron and he launched a towering effort that landed in perfect line with the hole, 40 feet short, took three small hops, then a fourth before it collided with the flagstick, squarely, and stopped just a couple of feet away for an easy two.
With a two-shot lead under his belt, it made he dreadful 18th not so dreadful. A driving iron to the middle, a second that was a bit off line left him 80 feet to the hole. Didn’t matter, he chipped to seven feet and the short game he leaned on heavily, got him that closing par for 69, 12-under, winner by two.
“You play mental games with yourself,” Day said of his challenging final round. “I just told myself ‘keep pushing, keep pushing, just keep going forward, just give yourself opportunities.'”
That’s exactly what he did in the end when he knocked The Green Mile off its feet with a birdie-birdie-par finish to close the deal.
He’ll jump back into the top 10 this week when the new rankings come out. He had seen himself fall to No. 14, despite his early season win at Torrey Pines, another big-boy course like this one at Quail Hollow.
He’s beginning to look a lot like the guy who won five times in 2015 then another three times including the 2016 Players Championship, a win that took him to No. 1 in the world.
But in 2017, life got in the way. His mother was battling cancer and wife Ellie suffered a miscarriage. Life as No. 1 had also taken its toll.
“I got burned out being No. 1,” Day admitted. “It can be demanding at times. You’ve got to give time to people and sometimes you don’t get a lot of time to yourself. Last year was a kick in the butt not playing great and seeing a lot of other guys succeed.”
It is Day succeeding this year but he conceded he’s got his eye on another Players Championship this week.
“I need a lot of work if I want to win,” he said, thinking about his Sunday struggles, mostly with his ball-striking.
“But,” he added, “I’m confident in my abilities.”
It certainly looks like the winning Jason Day is back. Yeah, THAT Jason Day.
It was the guy from Queensland who won in the Queen City on Sunday.
Now it’s on to The Players with three more majors after that.
“These are exciting times for us,” Day said of himself and wife Ellie, who is expecting the couple’s third child in the fall.
Well said, Jason Day.