Following the disappointment of a near miss at the Open Championship last Monday, Jason Day closed in style, rolling in three straight birdies to capture the Canadian Open by a shot over Bubba Watson at Glen Abbey GC. Day also spoiled 54-hole leader David Hearn’s bid to become the first Canadian to win his national championship in 61 years.
Day’s clutch finish — which included draining a 20-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole — took place just six days after he came up just short (literally) at St Andrews.
In the final round of the Open, Day had a putt to join the three-man playoff on the 18th, but his birdie attempt stopped inches from the hole dead in the heart. It was another heartbreaking ending for the 27-year-old Australian at a major championship, where he has come oh-so-close to getting that major duck off his back a number of times. In the last five years, Day has nine top-10 finishes, including very close calls, where he arguably let the major titles slip through his fingers in the final round.
“Just to be able to put yourself in contention so many times, especially in major events and just fall short, even going back to last week leaving the putt short and not being able to get into the playoff really kind of was disappointing,” said Day, who also won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this season. “It was frustrating and disappointing at the same time. Even though I knew that I played great, I knew that this week I had to focus on this week. As soon as that finished, I had to focus on this week.”
Well, on Sunday, Day faced a similar putt on the 72nd — but this time for the outright win — and he was certainly going to get it to the hole.
“Same things were going through my mind,” said Day. “Make sure you get it to the hole, and fortunately enough for me it was quick enough to where I just needed to get it on the line. If I got it on the line, it was perfect. I just knew as soon as I hit the putt about six feet out, I knew it was going to come back and go in the hole.”
Day started the final round strong, with three birdies in the first seven holes, but then he made two straight bogeys on nos. 8 and 9. For a moment, it appeared like Day was going to let potential victory get away from him — something we’ve often seen from him in final rounds. It’s happened enough times that Day was starting to gain the reputation of not being able to close coming down the stretch, but this time he managed to turn it around and perhaps it was exactly what he needed to give him further confidence and experience in similar situations going forward.
“My life long goal is to get to No. 1 in the world,” said Day. “I know that I can’t do that without wins and big wins like this in major championships. All of those little hiccups along the way you would say with major championships just falling short or not doing enough or all of those things are just setting me up, hopefully later on down the road it becomes a lot easier for me to finish it off the way I need to. This was a good indication of where my game is at with regard to that.
“I feel like I’ve put myself in contention over the last two weeks. I fell short a little bit last week, but I knew my game was ready and I was focused on playing this week, playing good this week. To be able to do that on the 72nd hole was tremendous…
“There is one little thing you can learn each and every day to try to get better at at your profession.”
Day, who now has four career victories on the PGA Tour, has his eyes set on securing his first major title at next month’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. In 2010 when the event was last held at that venue, Day, who was only making his second-career start at a major, finished T10, despite posting a disappointing 74 in the final round. This season, Day placed T9 at the U.S. Open after entering Sunday tied for the lead, but he was battling a bad bout of vertigo and even collapsed on his final hole during the second round. At last week’s Open Championship, he finished T4, missing out of the playoff by a stroke, as mentioned above.
“I know that I doubled nine to kind of put myself out of the championship,” Day recalled. “I was in contention on the last day, and I doubled nine, unfortunately. I played with (eventual champion) Martin Kaymer the last day, so I understood what needed to happen to win that tournament. So a lot of those memories are coming back. I’m looking forward to getting back there and really trying to win my first major.
“It’s been close. Finishing fourth last week at the British, and T9 at the U.S. Open and having multiple second place finishes and being around there, it’s very difficult. It’s tough to win. It really is tough to win. Jordan (Spieth), Tiger (Woods), Rory (McIlroy), they make it look easy, but it’s not easy. It’s just something where I’m going to head in with the same kind of preparation. It’s going to be a little harder with the WGC Bridgestone first, but I’m going in and going to try to prepare the best I can and give it a hundred percent.”