Welcome to the top of the Sunday night leaderboard at a major, Jason Day.
The Australian superstar steered clear of the rest of the field at the 2015 PGA Championship and won his first career major title, with an astounding five-under 67, to bring his tournament total to 20 under par. Day didn't only win the title, but he also stared down every move from his playing partner, Jordan Spieth, in the process and never blinked.
He made history as well, per CBS Sports:
With so many notable young golfers, such as Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, competing for championships on a weekly basis, it is easy to overlook the talented and consistent 27-year-old Day. He reminded everyone just how dangerous he is Sunday at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, on his way to the Wanamaker Trophy.
It was his third victory and eighth top-10 finish of the year, per PGATour.com, but undoubtedly it's his most memorable performance.
Below is a look at the top of the leaderboard and each golfer's corresponding prize payouts. The full leaderboard can be found at PGA.com.
|2015 Players Championship Final Leaderboard|
|Place||Golfer||Overall Tournament Score||Prize Money|
|1||Jason Day||-20||$1.8 million|
Day was in control for the entire round, but it became perfectly clear who would win when he drilled his birdie putt on No. 14 to get to 20 under par. The PGA Tour shared a highlight of the moment:
The lasting images typically come on the back nine, but the Australian did plenty of his work on the early holes. He birdied Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 7 and created critical separation as Spieth shot a one-under 35 on the front nine. Day's putt on No. 7 was particularly impressive, per the PGA Tour:
It was a fitting final major for Day in a season that was otherwise defined by near-misses and questions of what could have been. He finished a single shot out of the British Open playoff and collapsed in the second round of the U.S. Open with a case of vertigo. Day still managed to work through it and achieve a top-10 finish, but he now has a defining victory over Spieth and the rest of the field.
Day carried a two-shot lead over Spieth entering the final round and certainly knew this year's Masters and U.S. Open winner was hot on his trail, per Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post:
There are guys that are great players behind me — especially Jordan Spieth — trying to catch me. I think the hardest thing for a player is when they’re trying to close, they kind of get if in their own way, start thinking to themselves if they can do it, if they can’t do it, is the shot too hard, is the shot too easy.
A number of things can happen, especially on a final round of a major championship. I’ve done all the hard work right now to get into contention, to have this lead. So [Sunday] I just need to be patient with myself. I’ve got to stay out of my own way and just let things happen.
Day ultimately won, but Spieth was also brilliant in the closing stretch. He tallied three birdies on the back nine on his way to a four-under 68. Anthony Rothman of 97.1 The Fan in Columbus praised Day's ability to overcome any potential push from the former Texas Longhorn:
It is a testament to Spieth's overwhelming ability that even a 68 on the final day of a major didn't appear to be his best golf. Bill Simmons of HBO suggested as much:
We may not have seen Spieth's absolute best throughout the entire round Sunday, but we did see his best all season. He broke one of Tiger Woods' records with his performance at the PGA Championship, as SportsCenter noted:
Spieth also passed McIlroy as the No. 1 golfer in the world with his second-place finish and became the first to finish in the top four of every major in a year since Woods did so in 2005. McIlroy congratulated his fellow golfer in the aftermath:
While the final round was primarily a showdown between Day and Spieth, Dustin Johnson deserves plenty of credit for his overall resiliency. He turned in a nightmare score of eight on the par-four first hole and also finished with a bogey on Nos. 3 and 4. It looked like Johnson was in for another final-round disaster at a major, as Will Brinson of CBS Sports and Justin Ray of Golf Channel pointed out:
However, Johnson bounced back with three straight birdies on 5, 6 and 7, two eagles on the back nine and a fourth-round score of three-under 69. He didn't win at 12 under for the tournament, but in a season filled with heartbreak (such as his three-putt to miss the U.S. Open playoff and the loss of his early British Open lead), he likely took solace in his late charge.
Perhaps we will see more consistency from Johnson in the closing stretches of next year's majors. Florida Gators golf coach JC Deacon seemed to believe that:
Elsewhere, Justin Rose pulled to within two strokes of Day on the back nine, but his double bogey on No. 13 ended any realistic chance of victory. Rose ended up six strokes off the lead in fourth place, but the double bogey was simply poor timing and a major swing, as Sky Sports Golf noted:
Rose, Spieth and a number of other contenders were all well within striking distance at different points Sunday, but the final round belonged to Day.
He never faltered despite potentially overwhelming pressure, and he earned his first career major trophy as a result. In addition to the incredible performance and the satisfaction that comes with a PGA Championship, the final round should provide a confidence boost moving forward into next season's major tournaments.
He outlasted arguably the best young golfer on the planet in Spieth and eliminated that major hole in his resume.
Day is only 27 years old, and fellow Australian golfer Matt Jones thinks this is the first of many triumphs, per Cannizzaro: "It will happen when it happens, and when it does, there will probably be a lot of them come. I see top-10s in every major [for Day]. Once he gets his first one, just like Phil [Mickelson]. Phil went on a run [and won five]. I can see that happening with Jason. He’ll win five or six pretty quick."
Even if that incredible run does happen, Day will never forget when it started at Whistling Straits.