Feb
24
2014
All Day long
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
Winners
It wasn’t easy, but Jason Day got it done. The 26-year-old Australian won his first World Golf Championship of his career at the Accenture Match Play Championship, beating Frenchman Victor Dubuisson in an epic duel at Dove Mountain. It took 23 holes — that’s five playoff ones — to make it happen.

No matter what Day did, Dubuisson seemed to answer with one clutch shot after the other and he hit recoveries that would make Seve Ballesteros proud. Day had to work harder than he would have probably liked. 

“I really honestly thought that maybe I’ve just got to keep fighting, fighting, fighting,” said Day in his post-round presser.

“And with the two shots that he hit on 1 and then on 9, in the extra holes, was just unbelievable to run it through the rough.  I mean, the first one  on the first hole, he kind of just hacked at it and it came out pretty good and worked out great.  But the one on 9, he actually played  I think he played it to where it was supposed to go.  And it was just an unbelievable up and down.  His putting is really solid under pressure.

“And then when we played 15 again, I knew or he knew, as well, because when he hit his drive out of the rough there, he said under his breath “dead.”

“Once I saw it, now I knew he wasn’t going to make birdie. So I just had to get off a good tee shot somewhere around the pin there, not in a similar position where he was.  It almost did, but it actually got a little lucky and stayed up.”

Day had a much easier (and savable) chip than Dubuisson.

It’s been nearly three years since the Ohioan resident’s last — and only — PGA Tour win, the 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship, which he nearly let slip through his fingers.

“That’s what it felt like, because for a second there I didn’t think it was my time again,” said Day, who has come close on the major stage in twice at the Masters, along with the U.S. Open, with six top-tens in 12 career starts.

Day gleaned from these experiences to keep his composure under the pressures of being in contention — or this case, beating the crap out of his opponent. (Figuratively.)

“In golf you have to choke some and hopefully you win more than choke some,” he said. “But these experiences, these wins, and especially playing match play like this, it’s so similar to playing Sunday rounds that it’s a good experience to play in match play events because it just gets those juices flowing, what you’re going to feel on Sundays at big events.

“And to know that you’ve got six rounds of experience to take it for the whole year, it’s so valuable.  It’s exciting that I actually got the job done.  I know that I can play well against the best players in the world.  I’ve done it now in the match play.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next one I play.  Right now I’ve just got to soak in the win.”

Another perk of the victory is that it will fault Day to a career-best no. 4 in the world rankings. He’s thrilled, but he still has goals. Oh, and he’s candid.

“I still have goals that I want to accomplish for the year,” he said. “I can’t stop and go, yeah, I wanted to get to the top 5, and top 5 in three events that I’ve played.  I’ve still got a whole schedule.

“I’m going to be honest here, I came from a very poor family.  So it wasn’t winning that was on my mind when I first came out on the PGA Tour.  It was money.  I wanted to play for money, because I’d never had it before.  Winning takes care of everything.  And it’s not about the money anymore.  I just want to play golf, golf that I love, and win trophies.

“This is very encouraging for the start of the year that I’ve got a full season left, particularly a full season for myself left, I want to see how far I can take this.  And ultimately my goal ever since I was a kid, knowing that I wanted to turn professional was to become the No. 1 player in the world.  And obviously it’s very difficult to achieve that.

“But winning this event under the pressure and under the circumstances that I had out there today and getting to No. 4 in the world now, there’s only three other guys ranked higher than me, so I’m very excited.  I’m very excited to see my name at No. 4 in the world.”

And we’re excited for you. The Masters should be intriguing.