Jason Day Completes Wire-to-Wire Victory at Bay Hill
Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational is a special stop on the PGA Tour every year. It is a time to remember a legend in golf and watch the best players compete on a fair and fun track in Orlando, Florida. It is also the last stop on the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing. Adam Scott has dominated the swing winning 2 out of the 4 tournaments. Nevertheless, this week belonged to Jason Day. He shot a 66-65-70-70 = 271 (-17) to win by 1 shot over Kevin Chappell, and 3 shots over Troy Merritt. It is the first wire-to-wire finish at Bay Hill since Fred Couple’s victory in 1992.
Troy and Kevin are not household names on the tour, but fought well this week against the now second ranked player in the world, Jason Day. Kevin is ranked 69th in the world with his best finish being second, which he has done 4 times since 2011. Kevin is a one time winner on the PGA TOUR, winning the Quicken Loans National in August. He is ranked 82nd in the world.
This week’s win is Jason Day’s 8th since the start of 2015. After a slow start to the 2016 season, this week reminded us, and himself, that he is one of the greatest players in the world. He can win a PGA Tour event without playing his best golf. ” I was grinding it out today,” Jason said after getting up and down for par on the 18th to win by one shot.
Jason began the day leading by 2 shots, but relinquished that lead on the front nine with 3 bogies. The poor ball striking continued on the back nine, yet, like great players do, Jason hit enough shots to score the birdies necessary to win. He hit great shots on 9 and 17 which lead to two one-putt birdies. Day also got up and down 3 out of 4 times on the back nine, once for birdie. The missed opportunity was for a birdie, making a par on 16.
Coming down the stretch, the tournament turned into a nail biter. Kevin Chappell and troy Merritt both had chances to take the tournament away from Day. As Jason Day and Troy Merritt, the last group, hit their shots onto the par 3 17th they were tied at -16 under. Both trailing Keven Chappell by 1 shot who was teeing off on 18, one group ahead.
Jason hit a great mid-iron shot to 12 feet from the tee 221 yards away. Troy hit a 3 iron that bounded over the green. He chipped in for par after flubbing a pitch to stay in contention at -16 under. Jason made the clutch 12 foot birdie putt to put himself in a temporary tie for the lead at -17 under.
While this was unfolding on 17, Kevin Chappell hit a drive into the thick right rough 5 yards off the fairway. With his ball buried, and a lake between him and the famous, narrow kidney bean shaped green, there was no option but to lay up. After laying up and leaving himself 105 yards, he hit a poor wedge to 25 feet. Kevin two putted for bogey, and become the clubhouse leader at -16.
Jason Day hit a 3 wood far right of Chappell’s ball but into a far better lie. His ball was sitting up in the rough trampled by the spectators all day. A fortunate break that gave him the ability to hit his second shot across the lake towards the narrow green. He had 187 yards to the flag and hit it 194 into the rear green-side bunker.
Troy Merritt hit driver on 18 right in the middle of the fairway, leaving 190 yards in. At -16 under with Day at -17, birdie was the intention, but it was not the result. He left his club face slightly opened at impact pushing the ball short and right, right into the water. The splashed echoed against the grandstands as the “Ohs!” from the fans filled the air. He doubled bogied the hole to finish at -14 under, and a T3rd with Henrick Stenson.
All the pressure was on Jason now. Get up and down to win the tournament. The bunker shot was close to 30 yards, longer and tougher than normal, with nothing but water behind the flag. Jason had green to work with though, and used this to his advantage. He played the back to front slop beautifully, exploding the ball out of the bunker left of the pin. It rolled down the slope, stopping 4 feet from the hole. Now all that was left was a 4 foot putt with minimal break to win the 2016 Bay Hill Invitational. Like a major champion in his prime should, he sunk it.
The main ingredient to Jason Day’s victory this week was his championship level experience. This was Kevin Chappell and Troy Merritt’s biggest moment of their respective careers so far, Jason was trying to win a tournament even though he knew he did not have his A-game. Two completely different perspectives, and it showed when the tournament was up for the taking.
Jason Day’s game is trending in the right direction, and he should be a strong contender at the 2016 Masters Tournament in 3 weeks. That is if he can work out his ball striking problems.
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