Players Championship 2016
Round 4- Wire to wire win for Jason Day
May 16, 2016
The best field in golf was no match for Jason Day at The Players Championship.
Day caused only a little drama Sunday in what otherwise felt more like another coronation for the 28-year-old Australian. He led by at least two shots the entire round, played bogey-free again on the back nine at the TPC Sawgrass and closed with a 1-under 71 to win golf's richest tournament.
''I just wanted to win this so bad,'' Day said.
Along the way, he put a stamp on his No. 1 ranking.
Day won for the seventh time in the last 10 months, titles that include a major, a World Golf Championship and a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events. He became the first wire-to-wire winner in 16 years at Sawgrass.
Day won $1.89 million from the $10.5 million purse.
He won by four shots over Kevin Chappell, who closed with a 69 to pick up a $1,134,000 consolation check.
The greens at the Stadium Course were not nearly as severe as Saturday, when only six players managed to break par and Day made a pair of double bogeys to slow what had been shaping up as a runaway. This time, Day inflicted his own damage by missing greens and flubbing three chips on his way to a bogey on the par-5 ninth that cut his lead to two shots going to a back nine filled with possibilities.
With two quick birdies, the outcome soon was inevitable.
Day poured in a 15-foot birdie on No. 10 and another one from that range on No. 12. His last challenge was to make sure he found land on the island-green 17th, and his wedge made it with about 10 feet to spare.
''Playing the way I did on the back side, just bearing down, I'm going to hold this memory for a long time,'' Day said.
He finished at 15-under 273, and he left his peers wondering what it would take to beat him when Day is on his game.
''It's no coincidence he's No. 1 in the world,'' Justin Thomas said after closing with a Sunday-best 65 to tie for third. ''He drives it extremely far, extremely straight. He hits it to the moon, so he can access pins that most people can't. His short game is ridiculous. I think I've pretty much covered it all there when it comes to the golf.''
Day is the third No. 1 player to win The Players Championship, joining Greg Norman (1994) and Tiger Woods (2001 and 2013).
Perhaps even more telling about the state of his game is that he joined Woods, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller as the only players since 1970 to go wire-to-wire twice in the same season. Day led from start to finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
Day also won the Dell Match Play, winning six of his seven matches before they reached the 18th green.
Chappell made bogey on the final hole at Bay Hill to lose to Day. This time, he tried to catch up with a 32 on the back nine. Day simply wouldn't let anyone catch him.
The consolation for Chappell is his third runner-up finish this year moves him well inside the top 50 in the world, assuring him exemptions into the U.S. Open and British Open this summer.
Thomas, who started 11 shots behind, stuck around Sawgrass to see if 10-under 278 would have a chance. He wound up tied for third with Matt Kuchar (68), Colt Knost (69) and Ken Duke (72).
Hideki Matsuyama, playing in the final group with Day, was 3 over after three holes and quickly out of the mix. The pressure didn't come from anyone else, rather from Day. The Aussie hit only three greens on the front nine, dropping a shot on No. 6 and having to make a 15-foot par putt on No. 7.
After chopping up the rough to the right of the ninth green, he had to make a 6-foot putt for bogey.
But he was flawless on the back nine, going bogey-free the entire week.
He now has a large lead in the world ranking over Jordan Spieth, who missed the cut, and Rory McIlroy at No. 3, who was never a factor on Sunday at Sawgrass. Dating to his 81 last year at The Players to miss the cut, Day has finished out of the top 10 only seven times in his last 20 starts.
Adam Scott referred to it as ''Tiger-esque.''
''That's one of the hardest things to do when you are hot like that, to keep pushing,'' Scott said. ''But he has a very strong desire to achieve so much, and I think probably his goals are changing throughout this period, and he's expecting more and more of himself. He's got that ability to push himself and accomplish.''
Round 3- Jason Day holds on to lead
May 15, 2016
Jason Day set the 36-hole record at The Players Championship on Saturday morning. By the end of a long and laborious day of big numbers, he was hanging on by the seat of his pants on a TPC Sawgrass that was as frightening as ever.
Through it all, one aspect never changed: Day is in charge, and he looks like he will be tough to beat.
On a vastly different golf course with greens that felt like putting on glass compared with the previous two rounds, Day overcame two double bogeys with a strong back nine for a 1-over 73 to maintain his four-shot lead.
But what a wild ride.
Day four-putted from 18 feet for double bogey and made another double bogey when he blasted out of sand across the green into deep rough as his lead shrunk to one shot. From there, the world's No. 1 player played 3 under with no bogeys over the final 10 holes to restore some semblance of order.
He was at 14-under 202. Any thoughts of adding to the record book were gone. But when a shootout turned into a survival, all that mattered was the lead.
Ken Duke turned in the best round of the tournament by making six birdies over his last seven holes for a 65. It wasn't the lowest score, but players couldn't believe someone could shoot 10 shots better than the average. He was four shots behind along with Hideki Matsuyama (67) and Alex Cejka (72).
''I'm just a player on the PGA Tour,'' Duke said. ''They're all good out here, and when you get some good number and make some good putts, the scores are there. ... But it was a great round. This golf course is very difficult with this condition, and it was a really unbelievable round.''
As tough as the greens were to putt - there were 149 three-putts or worse - the Stadium Course still presented its typical set of problems.
Russell Knox was trying to stay in the mix when he put three shots into the water on the island-green 17th and took a 9. That ruined his round (he shot 80) and his chances. Kevin Chappell was three shots behind when he had to play his second shot with his feet on the planks framing the water on the 18th hole. Having made two eagles, he closed with a double bogey to fall six shots back.
Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Rickie Fowler all missed the cut when the storm-delayed second round was completed Saturday morning. If there was a consolation, it was not having to take on Sawgrass and its scariest.
Shane Lowry of Ireland, playing in the final group, played his opening four holes in 5 over. That feel-good story of tournament rookie Will Wilcox, who made the first hole-in-one in 14 years on the island-green 17th on Friday? He hit in the water Saturday to make double bogey and wound up with an 82.
Sergio Garcia took six putts from just off the sixth green. Paul Casey took five putts from about 8 feet on the 15th hole.
Day had his moments.
He finished his second round at 15-under 129, breaking by one the 36-hole record Greg Norman set in 1994. Day didn't make a bogey until his 39th hole of the tournament. But that was inevitable.
''You had putts that never stopped,'' Jhonattan Vegas said after a 79.
Day's first blunder was a four-putt double bogey on the sixth hole, which started with an 18-foot birdie putt that he nearly made. It could have been worse. His 5-foot putt for double bogey nearly spun out of the cup. He answered with a wedge to 2 feet for birdie, but then had more trouble off the green at the par-3 eighth. This time, he had to make a 6-foot putt for double bogey.
And while his card was clean on the back nine, the biggest break of all came at the 15th. He was short of the green in three, certain to drop at least two shots, when Day chipped in from just over 50 feet for par. Then, he pounded a 3-wood and hit a towering 8-iron to 6 feet on the par-5 16th. He missed the putt and had to settle for birdie, made a 10-foot par putt on the 17th and finished with a solid par.
One more round, and no one is sure what to expect now.
The opening two rounds were soft and vulnerable, and the 163 rounds under par shattered the record in the 35 years The Players has been at TPC Sawgrass. Day (Thursday) and Colt Knost (Friday) tied the course record with a 63. Day broke the 36-hole record. Lowry and Rory McIlroy set a record with a 29 on the back nine.
Saturday was a different story.
The average score the opening two rounds was 71.02. It was 75.59 on Saturday. There were 82 rounds under par on Thursday, 81 rounds under par in the second round, and only six of them on Saturday.
Of the 76 players who made the cut at 2-under par, 60 of them had a double bogey or worse. There were 86 scores of double bogey or worse.
Day had two of them. And he still has a four-shot lead.
Round 2- Jason Day leads on storm hit day
May 14, 2016
The sky was getting so dark that Jason Day could barely see the flag on the 14th hole, much less the small crowd that waited out a two-hour storm delay Friday at The Players Championship. The way he was playing, he sure could hear them.
His 5-iron from 190 yards into a strengthening wind rolled to the back of the green and settled 2 feet away.
''A great shot,'' said Day, who can be stingy with self-praise.
His second big birdie to end his long day stretched his lead to three shots before it was too dark to continue, and Day stepped into a van for a short drive to the clubhouse. His first task was to check the wind for the morning when he had to finish four holes.
He already was 14-under par. He was on a record-setting pace at the TPC Sawgrass. And he could only think about pushing.
''I'm at 14-under par, I've got a good lead going on, I just can't sit back,'' Day said. ''I need to keep pushing forward. And the moment that I lose a little bit of focus and make a few mental errors and mistakes, that's when I let the field back in. And I just can't afford to do that.''
Shane Lowry had a 68 and was at 11-under 133, a solid round that only got going when he hit a wedge so badly that it didn't each reach the island green at the par-3 17th. He managed to escape with bogey, and then holed a wedge from about 180 yards on the 18th hole for eagle.
Two tough pars at the end of his round meant he was likely to be in the final group with Day. Not bad for a guy who was hitting it so badly Wednesday that he was dreading the thought of even playing.
''I thought I'd be booking a plane ticket now, how I was feeling on Wednesday,'' Lowry said. ''Yeah, golf is a funny game. Sometimes low expectations brings good results and high expectations brings no results.''
Jordan Spieth was just hopeful of a Saturday tee time, as was Phil Mickelson.
Spieth, looking frustrated as ever, got to the projected cut of 2 under with back-to-back birdies to start the back nine, only to catch a bad break when a rake kept his ball from rolling into the bunker and stayed on the steep slope leading to the sand. The best he could do was chip over the green and he made bogey, and his tee shot was wild to the right on the 15th when they stopped because of darkness. Spieth was at 1 under.
Mickelson had to make an 8-foot par putt on the par-5 16th to stay at 1 under. He was to return at 9:15 a.m. to play the 17th and 18th, likely needing a birdie on one of them to make the cut.
Defending champion Rickie Fowler shot 71 and was at 1-under 143. He needed help to make the cut.
Greg Norman set the 36-hole record of 14-under 130 at The Players in 1994, the year the Shark made only one bogey the entire week. Day looks just as good and has yet to drop a shot over the 32 holes he has played. He ended his day with a 40-foot birdie putt down the slope at No. 13 and the 5-iron for his tap-in birdie at the 14th.
''Hopefully, I can hit some good, solid shots coming in and at least try to get a couple more birdies,'' Day said.
Alex Cejka and Jonas Blixt each shot 67 and were at 10-under 134, along with Cameron Tringale (69).
Another day of calm and soft greens in the morning led to more record-tying performances, and a few irritated golfers who could have gone even lower. Colt Knost made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th to reach 10 under, only to three-putt the 18th and have to settle for a course record-tying 63.
''I was a little nervous over the second one,'' Knost said about his 5-footer for par and a 62. ''I knew what it was for. But I didn't hit a bad putt. I hit it on the left lip and it just stayed there. So a little disappointing, but still, I would have taken 9 under before I started today.''
Then came Rory McIlroy, 7 under through seven holes when he made a 50-foot eagle putt from just off the 16th green. His momentum slowed, but he still came to the par-5 ninth needing a birdie to become the first player to shoot 62 on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass.
McIlroy opted to lay up from 271 yards because going for the green historically has not worked out well for him on No. 9. Laying up wasn't much better. He chunked a wedge, chunked a chip and made bogey for a 64.
''I wanted to make birdie and shoot 62,'' he said. ''So yeah, I'm disappointed, but there's still two more days to go. That's the nice thing. I'm in good position heading into the weekend. ... Hopefully, I'm not too far behind.''
Even with a storm delay, there was no shortage of excitement.
The biggest thrill belonged to Will Wilcox, who hit pitching wedge for a hole-in-one on the island-green 17th. It was the first ace on that hole in 14 years.
Round 1 - Jason Day leads after record round
May 13, 2016
One birdie led to two more before Jason Day even hit his stride, and his round kept getting better until the world's No. 1 player was in the record book and in the lead Thursday at The Players Championship.
He putted for birdie on every hole. His longest putt for par was 30 inches.
Day was as flawless as the morning conditions - summer heat, surprising calm. When he blasted out of a tiny bunker within inches of the cup on his final hole, he had a 9-under 63, a two-shot lead and a fresh memory of the TPC Sawgrass.
His most recent round was an 81 last year to miss the cut. This one tied the course record.
''It just kept on building and building, this round, just one after another,'' Day said. ''It just got better and better.''
His opening day improved even more after he finished. The Stadium Course was so vulnerable, mainly because of receptive greens and no wind, that 29 players from the morning group shot in the 60s. A strong breeze finally arrived after Day was done, making it difficult for anyone to catch him.
''I don't know what the guys were doing out there this morning, but I don't think we saw the same golf course this afternoon,'' Rory McIlroy said after a 72. ''It was a little firmer, the wind got up a little bit and those guys made the course look awfully easy this morning.''
Jordan Spieth couldn't say the same. He played with Day and couldn't keep up.
In his first tournament since losing a five-shot lead at the Masters, Spieth dropped three shots over his last five holes and labored to a 72. He ended with a double bogey on the par-5 ninth when it took him five shots to get down from a bunker behind the green.
''I hit two fantastic shots,'' Spieth said, ''and then not really sure after that.''
Masters champion Danny Willett, rusty from a month of being home with a newborn son and a green jacket, opened with a 70.
There were 40 rounds in the 60s and 82 rounds under par, the most at The Players since 1993. Even so, Day was eight shots better than the average score of the strongest and deepest field in golf.
''Tee to green was pretty decent - was actually really good - and then once I got on the green, I felt like I could hole everything,'' he said.
Shane Lowry became the first player to shoot 29 on the back nine. He was in the group at 65 that included Justin Rose and Bill Haas. Ernie Els, who just last month started the Masters with a six-putt quintuple bogey, ran off six birdies and an eagle to lead the group at 66.
Rose looked at the pin positions and had a good feeling, especially on the island-green 17th. It was at the front, with a ridge serving as a backboard. By mid-afternoon, only four shots found the water. And with hardly any wind and greens still moderately soft, good scores were available.
''If there was a day to get the course, today was it,'' Rose said.
Day wasted no time.
He knocked in a 30-foot putt on his first hole, caught a good break on the par-5 11th by having a clear gap out of the pine trees that set up a birdie from the bunker, and made it three straight birdies with a wedge into 6 feet on the 12th.
He felt tired. But there was no stress.
Day only got into what looked like trouble on two occasions. He had a stick behind his ball from the pine straw on the par-5 second hole and sent that shot well out to the right. But he hit a perfect pitch that just landed on the green and rolled down to a foot for a birdie.
On the seventh, Day's drive hit the back end of a bunker and kicked forward down a slope and just inside the red hazard line of a pond, about a yard from the water. He worried about his wedge going long, but it settled 15 feet away for a birdie.
That's when he started thinking about the course record, last match by Martin Kaymer two years ago in the opening round of his victory.
''Then I'm like, 'OK, I think I can birdie 8 and 9, and that'll clip the course record.' It would be nice to shoot 10 under,'' he said.
His 40-foot birdie attempt on the par-3 eighth looked good ball the way, and Day began to backpedal as the ball got closer to the cup, a move he first made famous when he won the PGA Championship last year. He threw up his head in disbelief when the ball caught the right lip, and he tapped in for par.
And then on the par-5 ninth, he hit another great bunker shot that curled back toward the cup and settled inches away for his ninth birdie and a 63, allowing him to join Kaymer, Roberto Castro (2013), Greg Norman (1994) and Fred Couples (1992).
The only disappointment was seeing so many other good scores.
''When you shoot a 9-under par round, especially on this course you expect to have a decent lead,'' Day said. ''Fortunately - and unfortunately - I've got only a two-shot lead.''
That's not unusual for this course, especially with this field. Kaymer and Norman shot their 63s in the opening round and only had a two-shot lead, while Castro's opening 63 gave him the lead by three.