Jason Day
(USA TODAY Sports)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. – Jason Day is the 2016 Players Champion. This is his third PGA Tour win this season, and his second in wire-to-wire fashion. This is also his 7th victory in 17 starts. An incredible run that begs the question can he keep it up? Jason Day believes so, “I’m very motivated to win as much as I can right now.”

The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass was a victory that defines why Jason Day is number one in the world, and looks to be solidifying himself in that position. Pete Dye designed TPC Sawgrass to allow golfers who are skilled ball-strikers and putters to compete against longer, more distance driven players. Professionals who normally can not keep up for four days at a major where length is valuable, win here. It is no surprise Fred Funk, Hal Sutton, or more recently, K.J Choi and Tim Clark are past champions. They can compete here, because it is a course that demands accuracy, great putting, and being patient.

He used to get lumped in with Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. Distance first players who can only bomb it off the tee and hope they are on their A games. Jason is long off the tee. In fact he was number one in driving distance this week, averaging 311.5 yards off the tee, but in 2016 he has separated himself. While Bubba Watson’s Ping camouflage visor is blending in with the woods around him, and Dustin Johnson’s short game fails to compliment his distance. Jason is proving he excels in all parts of the game. Along with his distance, Day was in the top ten in putting, sand saves, up and downs, first in birdies made, and the only champion not to have a bogie on the back nine of any of the four rounds.

Early in the week Day took TPC Sawgrass, a course with easy scoring conditions and played it better than anyone ever has. He shot a 63-66 (-15) under par score of 128. One better than Greg Norman’s 36 hole score of (-14) 129, in 1994. In the third round, fast and hard greens brought the average score up to 76. It was quick revenge, but Day managed the course good enough, shooting a (+1) over 73.

Day (-14) began the final round with a four shot lead over the young Japanese talent Hideki Matsuyama, Ken Duke, 47-year-old journeyman, and 45-year-old Alex Cejka. Scores from the early morning tee times indicated that the course was not set up the same way as round 3. It was going to be easier, and it was possible someone could catch Day. It just would have to be the round of their life, and Day would have to slip.

Jason admitted afterwards, “This has been the most nervous I’ve been before a tournament round.” It showed. He missed two birdie putts within 10 feet on the first two holes, then proceeded to bogie holes six and nine after failing to get up and down. After the round, Day said that making the six-foot bogey putt on nine was,”the most crucial putt of the tournament.” Showing the contenders chasing him that he just doubled bogied nine, shot a (+3) 39 on the front, and is now only 1 or 2 ahead of them would be an inevitable confidence boost.

After making the turn, and a great tee shot, he walked up the fairway on the 10th hole. Day hit his second shot on the par 4 to 18 feet away from the flag. Again, Jason’s putting proved why he is the best golfer in the world. He sunk the birdie putt to a huge roar from the crowd. This moved him back to (-13) under par. At the same time, around 5 pm, Colt Knost and Ken Duke birdied to move back to (-10) under. This was as close as anyone got to Day until Kevin Chappell birdied 16,17 late to finish alone at (-11) under. Not one of the contenders could make any putts to sustain a charge at Day.

The best score of the final round was Justin Thomas’s 65, which placed him in a tie for 3rd at (-10) under par. Unfortunately for Thomas he did not play good enough the first the days for his great score to effect the tournament. The most notable finish was Kevin Chappell’s second place, who played consistently, shooting under par all four rounds. Something Day did not even do. Coincidently he also finished second at the Bay Hill Invitational, where Day had his first wire-to-wire win.

Congratulations to Jason Day for another incredible victory. The Players Championship is a huge tournament, it is called the fifth major for a reason. Jason reiterated this sentiment after he won. Saying, “I wanted to win this so bad.” He felt winning The Players could put him over the edge in future hall of fame discussions, “to have this on my resume is huge.”

Previous to his first major championship victory at the PGA Championship last August, Day has had the 54 hole lead 7 times. He only won one of those tournaments. After the PGA Championship, he has had five 54 hole leads, and has won each time on Sunday. With his mind sharpened through adversity, Day has the scare tissue and game to complete the Hall of Fame resume he desires.

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